Congress Passes Lake Tahoe Restoration Act
Dec 13 2016
Bill provides $415 million to protect and restore Lake Tahoe
Washington—The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, passed by Congress last week as part of a water resources development bill, includes significant funds to restore Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin and protect the region from a number of imminent threats.
The legislation, cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), was included in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.
The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act continues the federal commitment to Lake Tahoe by authorizing $415 million over seven years to improve Lake Tahoe’s water clarity, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, combat invasive species and restore and protect the environment of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
“President Clinton’s visit for the first Lake Tahoe summit in 1997 launched an impressive public-private partnership that has since invested $1.9 billion in conservation, transportation and restoration projects around the basin,” said Senator Feinstein. “Our bill adds another $415 million from the federal government to ensure future generations can enjoy the Jewel of the Sierras.”
Feinstein added: “Despite our successful efforts over the last two decades, Lake Tahoe still faces threats from pollution and sedimentation that reduce the lake’s remarkable water clarity; warming water temperatures caused by climate change; increased potential for devastating wildfires in the basin; and a variety of invasive species that could potentially devastate the region’s economy. This boost in federal funding will help combat those threats to preserve the pristine nature of Lake Tahoe. Passage of this bill provides the best opportunity for the Tahoe team to use every dollar wisely and have the most impact on the health and resilience of the entire Tahoe basin.”
“After many years of climbing this mountain, we have arrived to the summit. Federal policy is once again focused on preserving Lake Tahoe for future generations of Americans to enjoy. Important initiatives addressing the numerous threats the Lake faces will now be set into motion. The importance of this legislation and what it means to the Tahoe Basin cannot be understated. This will be one of the greatest achievements our states have seen come out of Washington, and I’m happy to have been a part of it. I’d like to thank Senator Feinstein for her partnership to ensure the Basin’s initiative turned into a reality,” said Senator Heller.
The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2015 builds on efforts started with the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2000, a bill sponsored by Senators Feinstein, Reid, Boxer and then-Senator Richard Bryan (D-Nev.).
That bill, signed into law in November 2000, prompted significant investments in the health of Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin. Since 2000, contributions from the federal government total $635 million, California $759 million, Nevada $124 million, local governments $99 million and the private sector $339 million. An additional $300 million from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act fund was spent over 10 years on land acquisition, erosion control, forest management, fire suppression and improvements in water quality for Lake Tahoe.
Since the initial Lake Tahoe Restoration Act became law in 2000, improvements in the basin include:
- Erosion control on 729 miles of roads;
- 65,000 acres of hazardous fuels treatment;
- More than 16,000 acres of wildlife restored;
- 1,500 acres of stream environment zones restores;
- and 2,770 linear feet of shoreline added.
Summary of the legislation
- Restore Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin. Authorizes $80 million for priority projects identified by Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Environmental Improvement Program, in conjunction with state, federal and local agencies. Priority projects are identified by the best available science and 11 criteria listed in the bill. The Priority List shall be revised every 2 years based on monitoring data, assessments, and applied research of the basin. Implementation of priority projects will improve water quality, forest health, air quality and fish and wildlife habitat around Lake Tahoe.
- Reduce the threat of wildfire in the Tahoe Basin. Authorizes $150 million over 7 years for hazardous fuels reduction projects to reduce the threat of fire in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Projects include those identified as part of the Lake Tahoe Basin Multi-Jurisdictional Fuel Reduction and Wildfire Prevention Strategy 10-year plan, Washoe Tribal programs, and municipal water infrastructure projects to aid firefighting. It also creates incentives for local communities to have dedicated funding for defensible space inspections and enforcement.
- Support stormwater management, erosion control and watershed restoration. Authorizes $113 million for stormwater management programs to meet the adopted Total Maximum Daily Load and near-shore water quality goals. These funds will also include continuing the critical Upper Truckee River restoration programs and other watershed restoration programs.
- Protect Lake Tahoe from the threat of invasive species. Authorizes $45 million to prevent the introduction or spread of aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, like Quagga mussels, Asian clam, milfoil and perennial pepperweed. This authorization will also ensure the funding for the watercraft inspection program which requires all watercraft to be inspected in accordance with the Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan.
- Support reintroduction of the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. Authorizes $20 million over 7 years for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Recovery Plan. The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout is an iconic species that has an important historic legacy in Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is one of the historic 11 lakes that had Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in the past and is a critical part of the strategy to recover the species.
- Prohibit mining operations in the Tahoe Basin. Prevent the start of any mining operations in the basin, ensuring the fragile watershed and Lake Tahoe’s water clarity are not threatened by pollution from mining operations.
- Increase accountability and oversight. All projects funded by this legislation will have monitoring and assessment in order to determine the most cost-effective projects and best management practices for future projects. The legislation also requires an annual report to Congress detailing the status of all projects undertaken including project scope, budget and justification as well as overall expenditures and accomplishments.
- Provide for public outreach and education. Requires signage on federally financed projects in order to improve public awareness of restoration efforts. In addition, the bill creates a public outreach and education program to encourage basin residents and visitors to implement defensible space to limit wildfire risk; to implement best management practices for water quality protection; and to take actions to prevent the introduction and proliferation of invasive species.
- Allow for increased efficiency in the management of public land. The Forest Service will have increased flexibility to exchange land with state and local entities allowing for more cost-efficient management of public land. Currently, the Forest Service manages more than 3,200 urban parcels spread throughout the Basin.