Satellites provide TRPA, other Lake Tahoe agencies with enhanced data | SierraSun.com

Satellites provide TRPA, other Lake Tahoe agencies with enhanced data

Matthew Renda
Sierra Sun

Photo submitted to mrenda@sierrasun.comThe photos are images of above North Tahoe Regional Park in Tahoe Vista. From left to right: The first standard aerial photo shows all turf areas as green, and it is difficult to distinguish areas of impervious surface, or hard coverage, from compacted dirt areas, also know as soft coverage. The second and third images looks at vegetation. Many things are green to the eye, but spectral imagery identifies the synthetic football field as non-vegetative artificial turn. Spectral imagery further shows impervious surfaces, as they shows up as purple and are distinguishable from soft coverage, or pervious surfaces.

LAKE TAHOE and#8212; Satellite technology is helping the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency better protect the Lake Tahoe Basin from some of its most dangerous threats, including wildfire, stormwater runoff and aquatic invasive species.

This past summer, the bistate agency partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to use $399,000 in Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA) funds to collect high-resolution satellite imagery of the entire Lake Tahoe Basin.

The agencies also employed the emergent technology LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), which measures structural characteristics of a given landscape, said Jeff Cowen, spokesman for TRPA.

These data sets and#8212; covering about 247,000 acres and#8212; provide land management agencies and the public with detailed information regarding the status of Lake Tahoeand#8217;s ecology and urban interface.

The information will help agencies better plan and implement environmental protective measures such wildfire threat reduction, stormwater runoff mitigation and prevention of aquatic invasive species, Cowen said.

and#8220;We are filling a significant gap in what we know about this ecosystem and getting current information about everything from defensible space to invasive species,and#8221; said Shane Romsos, TRPA measurement and reporting branch chief.

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The imagery was collected using a satellite launched into orbit last fall, said Cowen, providing aerial photography that can reveal hidden landscape features by selecting different color bands.

For instance, the data set gathered for Lake Tahoe contains a color band capable of penetrating water, which the agency will use to map the location and density of aquatic invasive species such as Asian clam and Eurasian watermilfoil.

Basin fire agencies can also use the technology to identify wildfire risk in specific areas, allowing them to prioritize fuel reduction projects and defensible space work, Romsos said.

TRPA also will be able to optimize the location of stormwater treatment facilities to capture fine sediment and nutrients more effectively, Cowen said.

Fine sediment and nutrients are the principal culprits in the reduction of Lake Tahoeand#8217;s famed clarity.