Striving for a cleaner Truckee River |

Striving for a cleaner Truckee River

(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series showcasing local groups that benefit from the “Gifts for Good” fund-raising campaign sponsored by the Sierra Sun, Tahoe World and the Truckee-Tahoe Community Foundation.)

Since people first inhabited this area, the Truckee River has served as the lifeblood of our region, from its source in the Sierra Nevada to its terminus at Pyramid Lake. Maintaining the health of the river is important to everyone who benefits from it, which is why the Truckee River Watershed Council (TRWC) has found such a broad range of support from local groups and concerned individuals.

TRWC Executive Director Lisa Wallace said the council is “a collaborative effort of organizations and groups who are interested in preserving and protecting water quality.”

Unlike a regulatory agency, the TRWC has no authority to enact regulations concerning river-related issues. Instead, it works with regulatory agencies, local businesses, volunteers and other interested parties to try to shelter the Truckee River from the effects of pollution, erosion and other man-made problems.

“There’s a strong understanding and agreement that our local economy is dependent upon the condition of the environment. People are attracted to come up to Truckee and the North Shore area because it’s beautiful here,” Wallace said. “And everyone – nonprofit organizations, businesses and individuals – is very interested in maintaining the health of the environment and the beauty of the environment. People have different ideas and methods and approaches about how that’s achieved, but there’s strong agreement on the overall goal.”

In support of that goal, the TRWC implements a number of measures to help maintain the natural environment within the watershed. Currently the TRWC is working to coordinate the goals of interested parties by developing a Watershed Management Strategy that will help member organizations select river restoration projects based on land use history and common goals.

One of the TRWC’s highest profile projects is the annual Truckee River Day, during which volunteers take part in river restoration projects that can be completed in one day. This year volunteers helped the TRWC with 15 projects ranging from the removal of old bridge footings from the river to revegetating an area near the state Route 267 bypass in Truckee.

Another ongoing project of the group involves water quality monitoring in the Truckee River and its tributaries. The TRWC sponsors a group of volunteers called the Truckee River Aquatic Monitors (TRAM) who take samples at various locations throughout the watershed for scientific analysis. TRAM volunteers monitor water quality throughout the year, and the TRWC also sponsors a once-a-year “snapshot day” that the staff use to compare water quality indicators over time.

Both of these initiatives take volunteers and equipment with which to collect the samples needed, and that is where the TRWC’s approximately $4,500 grant from the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation (TTCF) has helped the most.

“The Gifts for Good funding that we received is helping us hugely with the water quality monitoring,” Wallace said. “We are able to buy a lot of water quality monitoring equipment, which is nice because we’ve been begging and borrowing equipment for the last few years. That’s very inefficient, and it limits the number of sites we can monitor. So now we’re gaining efficiency and, more importantly, we can monitor more sites.”

Equipment used by the water quality monitoring volunteers includes Nalgene bottles, dissolved oxygen monitors, chemical kits (for pH testing) and tape measures.

“We’re very excited as staff, and the volunteers are really excited to have access to the equipment and to be able to expand our program,” Wallace said.

“Our volunteers were all really impressed and thankful that we received the gift for the equipment and to support the staff time. It can be difficult to get grants to buy Nalgene bottles. And we’re really appreciative that the committee understands the importance of water quality and understands the importance of us having enough equipment to adequately supply the volunteers. That’s unusual that a community has that kind of understanding of water quality,” Wallace said.

In addition, part of the grant money the TRWC received from the community foundation went to support a staff position that coordinates the TRAM and Snapshot Day volunteers and other monitoring activities.

As executive director for the TRWC, Wallace and her staff are constantly applying for grants from different sources, so she was pleased to find that the application process at the TTCF was relatively straightforward.

“The grant application was thorough, but very easy to complete. It was a low bureaucracy process and that makes more money available to be donated,” Wallace said. “I really want people to know that their money is going straight to the project.”

If the Truckee River Watershed Council has its way, business, development, recreation and all the other activities that make the Tahoe area an attractive place to live and play will be able to coexist with environmental protections, and the Truckee River will remain one of the premier attractions in this area.

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