June 14, 2024

Advanced Ailment Care

Elevating Health Solutions

North Tahoe Environmental Improvement efforts in focus at TRPA webinar

10 min read

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – Tahoe Regional Planning Agency gathered for a virtual webinar in on May 16 to provide insight to community members on the organization’s Environmental Improvement Program, also known as the EIP. Initially launched in the 1990s under the Clinton Presidency, the EIP aims to reach local environmental goals in the Lake Tahoe Basin. 

“The Lake Tahoe EIP is an unparalleled partnership working to achieve the environmental goals of the region,” the Lake Tahoe EIP’s website states. “Local, state, and federal government agencies, private entities, scientists, and the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California have collaborated for more than 20 years to restore the environmental health of Lake Tahoe.”  

The landscape-scale collaboration is a partnership amongst 80 public and private organizations, and the EIP focuses on basin-wide improvements in four main categories: watersheds and water quality, forest health, sustainable recreation and transportation, and science, stewardship, and accountability.  

Watersheds & Water Quality 

During the May virtual meeting, seven projects were discussed. The meeting kicked off with Kristina Burnette, environmental scientist for the Washoe Environmental Protection Department, discussing the decline of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.  

“Lahontan Cutthroat Trout are native to Lake Tahoe due to their decline and their cultural importance to the Washoe Tribe,” Burnette said. “The Washoe Tribe is assisting with restocking Lahontan Cutthroat Trout at Meeks Bay, [restocking] has been a great way to provide education and outreach to the public. The partnership between the [Washoe] Tribe and the Department of Fish & Wildlife is a great way to work together for recovery efforts.”  

Along with restocking projects that have been taking place, the Washoe Tribe has also provided educational resources, bringing information on Lahontan Cutthroat Trout to students in the program, “Trout in the Classroom,” bringing attention to students of all ages and allowing them the opportunity to release the eggs into Lake Tahoe when ready.  

Looking forward, the Washoe Tribe is planning to collaborate with agencies to continue to increase engagement and education on Lahontan Cutthroat Trout and the species’ role in Lake Tahoe.  

Continuing on the core topic of Watersheds, Theresa Cody, hydrologist for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, took over as a speaker to discuss the Incline Meadow Restoration Project. The project area is located off Highway 431 near Mt. Rose Summit.  

Cody discusses some of the recent history that’s taken place in the project area. In 2020, the Forest Service began restoration action on the property. When the Forest Service had control of the property, primary and secondary dams were removed under contract, and the stream channel was temporarily placed in a rockline ditch through the former dam footprint.

In 2021, the Forest Service restored the primary channel, creating a floodplain, where the main dam was previously located. In 2022, a boardwalk trail was constructed over the new floodplain and channel. In 2023, most of the upland restoration work took place, beginning with meadow restoration, and finishing with the filling of the diversion ditches on the project site. 

Cody then elaborated on what’s to come for this season’s restorative efforts in the project area.   

“The head cuts, which are steep drops that form on the channel bed, have formed on the channel through Incline Meadow,” Cody said. “These head cuts are deeply incised and not effectively draining the meadow. We intend to backfill the gully channel and stabilize the head cuts that have formed since the lake was drained. There are various berms and unnatural highpoints that have formed that are interrupting the natural water hydrology, so we’re going to remove those berms and use that material to backfill the gully.”  

Cody continued, stating that they are also planning to install beaver dam analogs, which are small, wood structures in the channel that will further encourage flooding and overbanking of the channel.  

The project is anticipated to take place for roughly eight weeks, from August – September 2024.  

Forest Health 

Tia Rancourt from North Lake Tahoe Fire discussed the advantages of utilizing prescribed fire as wildfire mitigation and proactive forest health treatment.  

“Our local force here has evolved with fire, this is what the Native Americans did prior to the 1800s and we’re reintroducing that practice,” Rancourt said. “There are a lot of benefits to prescribed fire in our local forest. Mainly, with prescribed fire, we have a longer return rate, which is ideal. With a prescribed fire, the return rate on the forest can be between 17-23 years, in comparison to hand-thinning or mechanical-thinning, which might be a shorter return rate interval, typically around seven years.” 

Rancourt continued, stating that prescribed fire is the most cost-effective, productive, and quickest way to do forest work.  

“Forests are dependent on fire,” Rancourt said. “Fire greatly helps the nutrient cycling system and allows for and supports better water availability, greater soil and water retention, it helps the ecosystem diversity, and it helps increase different rates of growth, creating different opportunities for wildlife.” 

Last season, North Lake Tahoe Fire was able to burn roughly 34 acres through prescribed fires. Rancourt also briefly discussed other community partners’ success with prescribed fire on the California side of the lake. Across several organizations, they were able to conduct 60 acres of prescribed burn last fall in the Burton Creek State Park area.  

This year, North Lake Tahoe Fire is aiming to burn 139 acres of IVGID land, depending on the weather.  

“We have an aggressive plan, we’ll see what the weather allows us,” Rancourt said. 

For more information on upcoming projects, barriers, expectations, and information regarding forest health involvement in the EIP, visit tahoelivingwithfire.org

Sustainable Recreation & Transportation 

The next topic of discussion during the TRPA webinar was Sustainable Recreation & Transportation. The first speaker for this topic was Celeste Havener, a civil engineer for Tahoe City Public Utilities District. Havener briefly discussed that TCPUD manages roughly 23 miles of outdoor biking trail in Tahoe City, from Dollar Point to Tahoma, along the Truckee River. The trails bring over 210,000 riders annually, largely contributing to Lake Tahoe’s tourism numbers.  

To keep these trails well maintained, Havener discussed recent successes with the Multi-Use Trail System Reconstruction and Safety Enhancement Project.  

“In 2023, TCPUD conducted both a pavement conditions assessment and a hazards assessment, so we could better understand the conditions of our trail system,” Havener said. “With those assessments, we developed a five-year capital improvement plan for rehabilitating the trails.”  

This five-year rehabilitation plan identified 13 miles of trail that require rehabilitation in the upcoming years, with an estimated $11 million total investment for the project.  

When analyzing the details of this rehabilitation project, Havener briefly discussed that enhancing trail safety is at the core of this project. 

“Trail safety could include green contrast paint, installing delineators between the trail and roadway, and additional signage on the trail,” Havener said. “Rehabilitation also means pavement restoration. That includes pavement patching, sealing, and addressing any root intrusion that is impacting the trail.”  

On the extreme end, rehabilitation under this project means repavement and realignment of the trail in certain areas, ensuring a safe experience for trail users.  

Looking forward, this summer season TCPUD will be constructing the North Shore Trail, which is two miles of trail that will be rehabilitated from Dollar Point down to the Lighthouse Shopping Center. This project will address multiple trail issues, as well as address proper trail realignment. The project construction will take place from May through October this upcoming season. The trail will remain open throughout construction.  

Additionally contributing to the Sustainable Recreation & Transportation segment of this webinar, Andy Deinken with the Placer County Department of Public Works discussed the North Tahoe shared-use trail, which entails the planned effort to get a paved trail from Tahoe City to Kings Beach.  

The objective of this effort is to implement and honor the TRPA’s active transportation plan.  

“We are trying to encourage alternative travel modes so that vehicle miles traveled are overall reduced in the Basin,” Deinken said. “We want to promote connectivity between Tahoe communities and are trying to improve community vitality and economic health, as well as properly mitigate tourism impacts.”  

While there are many dirt trails in this area, Deinken elaborates that paved trails further promote shared use, allowing the opportunity for all individuals to utilize the trails, not just single-track users and cyclists.  

This project is currently in the design phase until 2025, with the trail slated to be completed by the fall season of 2026. 

The last speaker under this segment was Kevin Fromherz, program manager for the Nevada Tahoe Resource Team, to discuss the Sand Harbor Restoration Project.  

Fromherz briefly discussed how Sand Harbor State Park’s original design was from the 1970s, accounting for what were the public parking numbers that were available then. Since then, visitation to Sand Harbor has largely increased; and in recent years, visitation from 2010 to 2022 alone has reached an “unsustainable level,” amounting to over 170,000 additional visitors per season on average.  

The park created short-term management protocols to promote and mitigate tourism numbers, including the locking of the park gates once the parking lot was filled, and the implementation of the East Shore Express transit;  however even with mitigation efforts, visitation continued to climb.  

“The intent of the Sand Harbor Master Plan is to recognize that Sand Harbor is a popular recreation site within the Greater Lake Tahoe area, we recognize that the park needs to be redesigned by shifting the focus from an isolated park that relies on vehicle traffic to looking at the opportunities to East Shore trail improvements,” Fromherz said. “As a result, we have the opportunity in front of us to do a complete redesign of the park, focusing on improving the recreation experience, especially expanding the capacity to allow more visitors to enjoy Sand Harbor throughout the year, without degrading the visitor experience.”  

The Nevada Tahoe Resource Team is discussing multiple alternatives to improve the park design, including mass transit, and the team is looking forward to assisting in solving the problems to contribute to the Sand Harbor Master Plan effort. 

Currently, Nevada State Parks and the Nevada Tahoe Resource Team are under contract with Design Workshop, which is leading the master plan effort. The planning team is assessing current park conditions, to create a cohesive, updated plan for the park. Over this upcoming summer season, the Nevada Tahoe Resource Team will be reaching out to the general public to better understand the desired conditions the community would like for Sand Harbor State Park.  

“We plan to have a public-facing event in the near future, to keep the community up-to-date with where we are at with the plan, get feedback from the community, and for community members to stay involved,” Fromherz said.  

Looking forward, Fromherz said they are anticipating the plan to be completed by Jan. 2025, to begin construction drawing between 2026 to 2027, with “hopeful construction” beginning by the end of the decade.  

Science, Stewardship & Accountability  

Under the Science, Stewardship & Accountability section of the TRPA webinar, Le’A Gleason, program director for the Lake Tahoe Ambassador Program, discussed the Lake Tahoe Ambassador Program, recent successes with the program, and what Lake Tahoe communities can expect to see from the ambassador program this upcoming summer season.  

The Lake Tahoe Ambassador Program is a summer program for late high school and early college students, with the focus of the program being for local students to learn to share environmental messages with the public.  

“We want to inspire our local youth to care about the environment and learn what they can do about it, and hopefully return to the workforce to protect our beautiful region,” Gleason said. 

New to the program for 2024, the Ambassador Program will include a term-long science research project, where students will be paired with a mentor. Under this new mentor program, specific data will be collected, which will turn into a completed research project for students to be able to add to their resumes.  

“We’re trying to add benefit to our region with this program, the students become stewards, in some of our post-program research, we’ve seen improved visitor and resident awareness because of the messages that the youth are distributing to people,” Gleason said. “We’ve been excited to collaborate between both state and local organizations to get this program in front of the youth of our community to share this focus and want to protect the region.”  

The last speaker during the webinar under the Science, Stewardship & Accountability subject was McKenzie Koch, conservation outreach and education specialist with the TRPA. During this webinar, Koch briefly discussed aquatic invasive species outreach and TRPA’s new Tahoe Keepers program.  

“Tahoe Keepers is a community stewardship program that teaches paddlers, kayakers, anglers, and anyone that’s on the beach how to clean, drain, and dry,” Koch said. “It’s a free, easy way to protect Lake Tahoe from invasive species.”  

The Tahoe Keepers process begins with a short video, followed by a brief quiz. After the quiz, users can collect a sticker from a watercraft inspection station, where individuals can then display the sticker on their watercraft or beach toy, signifying that they are a Tahoe Keeper.  

“The reason that being a Tahoe Keeper is so important is because of the devastating effects that aquatic invasive species can have on our local recreation and our local economy,” Koch said. “Aquatic invasive species decrease water clarity, impact our local economy, outcompete native species in the lake, and reproduce rapidly.”  

Under the Tahoe Keepers program, newly trained beach rovers will be two individuals who will be going beach to beach across the North Shore this summer season to educate beachgoers on the clean, drain, and dry practices, and encourage visitors to become Tahoe Keeper. There will also be new solar-powered machines that will be at different locations around the lake this summer season, starting at Sand Harbor and Meeks Bay. The solar-powered machine will provide high-pressure air for guests to utilize to complete the final step of being a Tahoe Keeper.  

Finally, the program will be launching its “Tahoe Keeper Fleet,” allowing the opportunity for rental businesses around the lake to be involved in the Tahoe Keepers messaging, ensuring their rental vessels don’t spread aquatic invasive species.  

Looking forward, the program encourages community members to get involved and become a Tahoe Keeper, at tahoekeepers.org.  

With seven main areas of focus and many projects happening around the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, lead organizations who are involved in each of these projects under these sectors are eager to continue working on these projects throughout the upcoming summer season, as well as see improved enhancements in the years to come.  

For more information on any of these local projects, to get involved, or for any questions, visit trpa.gov.  


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