Plan to protect Tahoe clarity OK’d



State and federal environmental regulators at Lake Tahoe are moving ahead with another new round of rules and strategies to protect the clarity of the mountain lake’s famed azure waters.

California water quality officials approved plans last week to reduce the amount of fine sediments discharged into the lake.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board accepted the plans prepared by the city of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado and Placer counties on the California side of the lake.

The goal is to reduce sediments discharged into the lake from urban runoff by 30 percent over 15 years by making improvements of approximately 10 percent every five years, The Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

“These pollutant load reduction plans represent an important step on the road to restoring Lake Tahoe’s clarity,” said Peter Pumphrey, chairman of the water board.

Tahoe’s waters were so clear in 1968 that one could see to depths of more than 100 feet. Runoff and algae associated with human development have reduced the average clarity in recent years to about 75 feet.

The new plans include evaluating the effectiveness of water quality improvements constructed in the communities over the last five years, implementation of new projects and enhancing operations and maintenance of roadways.

Similar sediment control programs are being implemented by communities on the Nevada side of the lake, including Incline Village and Stateline.

Also last week, new ordinances affecting land coverage and associated pollution at Tahoe took effect following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s update of a broad-based water quality plan for the lake. That overall strategy also is designed in part to prevent discharge of fine sediments into Tahoe’s waters as well as introduction of nutrients that can fuel algae growth.

The ordinances provide a regulatory framework for issues associated with pavement or other impervious surfaces on land within Tahoe’s watershed that contributes to sediment-laden runoff. Changes will help guide redevelopment of aging urban areas most responsible for pollution of the lake and are in line with a new regional plan approved for the Tahoe Basin last November, according to Joanne Marchetta, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“The new rules are both better for the environment and will help our struggling communities reinvent themselves,” Marchetta said. “The basis of the regional plan is protecting the centerpiece of our ecosystem while revitalizing our communities.”


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