Renovation to start on Tahoe City’s historic fish hatchery |

Renovation to start on Tahoe City’s historic fish hatchery

The UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center on Friday kicked off the renovation of its newest research center in a sleepy Lake Forest building that has stood solid through nearly 90 Lake Tahoe winters and summers.

The UC Davis project will breathe new life into a historical landmark.

The former fish hatchery, built in the 1920s, will soon house a cutting-edge research laboratory studying Lake Tahoe’s water quality and pollutants.

The converted fish hatchery will be the California counterpart to the UC Davis environmental center in Incline Village. Scientists will primarily use the new facility to process samples taken off the research vessel, John Le Conte, docked in Tahoe City.

“We always wanted to build a full lab here,” said Heather Segale, UC Davis’ education and outreach coordinator.

Construction began in late June, with completion expected in the fall of 2008.

In the 1970s, UC Davis purchased the fish hatchery, which ceased operations in the 1950s, from the state Department of Fish and Game for the bargain price of $1 ” a transfer procedure, Segale said.

The aged building looks tired, sunken into its surroundings and hardly noticeable to the passerby, despite its prime location at the intersection of Lake Forest Road and Highway 28.

The venerable building’s forest-green shingles are weathered, and cobwebs on its window frames give it a haunted feeling. Rough strips of reddish-brown bark panel the building’s exterior, but their beauty has faded with age. New electrical wiring dangles off the side, evidence that the restoration has started.

With $2 million in private donations, UC Davis plans to maintain the building’s historical look and feel, but update the dilapidated interior to meet modern safety standards, and install state-of-the-art research equipment. Another $1.67 million in state grants will fund the renovation of the surrounding grounds and wetlands.

“It’s a great opportunity to redevelop this building,” said Jennifer Merchant, Placer County’s Tahoe manager. “It’s an icon in North Lake Tahoe.”

Walking around the building, a visitor can almost imagine the landscaping that will replace an expanse of cement presently covered in a thick layer of dust and debris. The Research Center’s design committee intends to plant native California grass, perennials and shrubs, with beds of wildflowers. A permeable, stone path will wind around the building, through the garden and to a raised outlook point.

The design committee even found a mill that offers the same incense cedar bark originally used for the building’s siding.

The renovation will restore the surrounding Stream Environmental Zone, a wetland habitat that helps absorb runoff into the lake. Test plots will measure stormwater treatment options, and an observation system will monitor movement of the Earth’s crust. Interpretive signs, an indoor kiosk and a gathering area with benches should draw visitors to the site.

“This is going to be a great community resource,” said Christine McMorrow of the Sierra Watershed Education Partnership, one of the project’s community partners.

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