Runoff, erosion flowing into Donner Lake going unchecked
By Emilie KashtanAn article in the Sierra Sun (April 28 “Water-quality project set for Brockway Summit”) regarding Caltrans beginning work on the Brockway Summit to improve roadside water quality into the Tahoe Basin begs the question, “Why has nothing been done with no plans in the making for drainage repair by Caltrans on I-80 above Donner Lake, which has considerably more traffic and unfiltered runoff?” For years, many Donner Lake residents have written various state and local agencies, including Caltrans, about concerns regarding the unfiltered, high volume and erosive I-80 roadway runoff that drains into Donner Lake – to no avail. Jody Lonergan, Caltrans District 3 director, last year dismissed the public’s concern regarding the unfiltered drainage, erosion, and antiquated 1950 engineering. We all know that drainage is now to be filtered and properly diverted, which is not the case at Donner Lake. One of the two drainage pipes off I-80 that was completely displaced was repaired with no further attention to the unfiltered drainage. Much of the vehicular traffic that goes over the Brockway Summit first passes I-80 above Donner Lake, which also appreciates additional traffic traveling west toward Sacramento and San Francisco, and east to the greater Truckee area, Reno, Northern California and beyond. This means that this I-80 section gets considerably more traffic and roadway runoff than the Brockway Summit, and it dumps into the considerably smaller Donner Lake. Donner Lake doesn’t share the federal benefit of Lake Tahoe since it is located only in California, where repair and clean-up resources are limited.We understand from contacting involved agencies and Carl Leishesky of the California Department of Health Services that the only testing and monitoring of Donner Lake is the one-time January water testing by the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, yet John Reuter’s University of California, Davis study conducted in 1997 clearly found that pollutant levels in Donner Lake peaked in the summer months with high levels of MTBE, among other contaminants. Donner Lake is still the primary source of drinking water for Donner Lake residents, and it is a recreational lake to swimmers, boaters, fisherman and water skiers, who are exposed to these contaminants. I have spent 6,000 volunteer hours to get the dilapidated Donner Lake water system condemned, turned over to a dependable receiver, and rebuilt, all in four years so 1,400 residents would have uncontaminated drinking water. I will continue to work toward the clean up of Donner Lake, which effects all who enjoy the lake.We are writing the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board so it can use its authority with Caltrans and any other responsible governmental body to help clean up and protect Donner Lake before the problem is irreversible.Since there is no proper monitoring, the extent of the current situation is unknown. We also hope that the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is monitoring the large wetland and year-round pond below I-80 and above Donner Lake that “slipped through the system” and was seconds away of going under a bulldozer for a housing development. Emilie Kashtan lives near Donner Lake in Truckee
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