Tahoe City Fish Hatchery renovation livens up historic UC Davis lab
April 3, 2008
Once a sleepy building covered in a blanket of dirt, grime and age, the historical fish hatchery in Lake Forest has woken up.The fish hatcherys $3 million restoration and remodel, funded by private donations, is just about complete sprucing up the 88-year-old building and giving UC Davis scientists a lab without cobwebs.I worked there for two years, and it was just like the heebie geebies, said Heather Segale, education and outreach coordinator for the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center. You had spiders and spiderwebs. And the dust was just everywhere. If you stayed late, you would have little mice running across your feet. It was really hard to make it a sterile lab environment.Now researchers have a state-of-the-art, not to mention clean, Tahoe City Field Lab to filter samples taken off the UC Davis research boat, the John Le Conte, which is docked in Tahoe City. Before, many samples had to be shipped to the university campus in Davis to be processed. The lab will also stage various UC Davis experiments, serve as a conference area and work space and store scuba diving equipment.All that remains to be done is a final check on the buildings fire alarm before the architect and contractor can sign the building off to UC Davis. Segale said they will likely start using the facility this spring.They have done, like, the most outstanding job, Segale said. Everyone who has come in has said that their expectations were exceeded.Historical Architect Burton Edwards of Siegal andamp; Strain Architects in Emeryville is one such visitor who said the buildings quality renovation went beyond what he expected. What [the contractors] have done is to very carefully and attentively update the building, Edwards said. A similar roofing material was used. A brand new bark siding, which was a replication of the original siding, was produced and installed. So they have really kept the character of the building very much intact.According to Edwards, the 1920s structure is one of a kind. The Tahoe City fish hatchery, which was built in response to the negative impact that Californias gold-mining industry had on fish, is one of two designed by then-State Architect George McDougal. The Tahoe City counterpart, located in Independence, Calif. near Mt. Whitney, was designed after a Bavarian castle, Edwards said.This one is sort of a more rustic, sort of alpine chalet architecture, Edwards said, noting that its the cedar bark siding that really sets the building apart from others. Thats unique. Thats something thats really, really special.The Truckee-based contractors, Geney/Gassiot, said they enjoyed working on the historical project. They found the cedar bark from a connection in the foothills, said Peter Beaupre.You definitely have to coordinate a lot with the architect and the original drawings, Beaupre said.
While the buildings renovation is just about wrapped up, the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center still has a lot of work to do before the public grand re-opening in August.The research center is looking to restore three acres of wetlands that extend from the fish hatchery down to the lake. Old development destroyed the Lake Forest wetlands by filling them in with leftover dirt. With $1.7 million in proposition funding, the research center intends to remove the fill dirt, plant typical vegetation seen in wetlands and let nature kind of take its course, Segale said.The proposition funding will also sponsor an interpretive walk educating the public about wetlands.Segale said she hopes the project will eventually spur a greater wetlands restoration effort in Lake Forest beyond UC Davis three acres.Another interpretive center, sponsored by a $70,000 grant from the California Tahoe Conservancy, will focus on the historical significance of the fish hatchery. Segale said they received valuable footage taken by a fish hatchery employee in the 1930s on 8-mm film that they will show. The sepia-toned frames, which have been digitally re-mastered, depict the employees milking the fish of their eggs and sperm, breeding baby fish and then releasing them into the upper alpine lakes, Segale said.