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Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum

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President Clinton and Vice President Gore:
Actions to Protect Lake Tahoe
July 26, 1997

Our land of new promise will be a nation thatmeets its obligations . . . a nation that fortifies the world smost productive economy even as it protects the great naturalbounty of our water, air, and majestic land.

President Clinton
Second Inaugural Address,
January 20, 1997

Over the past two months, the Clinton Administration has soughtto highlight the progress made in Lake Tahoe and to reaffirm ourcommitment to its protection. The Administration convened threeworkshops leading up to the Presidential Forum on waterquality; forest restoration, recreation and tourism; andtransportation.

The Administration heard two clear messages at the workshops: First, the Administration should reaffirm its role in helping tomanage this national treasure by improving coordination amongfederal agencies and with California, Nevada, the Washoe Tribe,the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, other local units ofgovernment; this cooperation should be guided by the people inthe region. Second, the Administration should take meaningfulnew actions on water quality, transportation, forest management,and recreation and tourism to protect Lake Tahoe's environment,and with it the area's economy and quality of life.

The President directed his Administration to begin actingon those recommendations. Over the past five years, federalagencies have committed an average of $12 million a year in theLake Tahoe basin. The Administration is committing to double itsannual investment in the basin for the next two years and willwork with state and local partners to expand our joint commitmentin succeeding years. Specifically, the Administration will takethe following actions:

  1. Protecting Lake Tahoe and the Local Economy. TheAdministration is taking significant new actions to help LakeTahoe's environment and economy.

    Improving Lake Tahoe's Fabled Water Quality.

      The President will work with Congress to secure funding for a newpipeline to carry wastewater out of the Tahoe basin. TheAdministration supports this effort aimed at preventing acatastrophic spill of wastewater into the lake by replacing thedeteriorating wastewater pipeline at South Lake Tahoe.

      In an expansion of the University of California at Davis longhistory of scientific leadership at Lake Tahoe, the EnvironmentalProtection Agency (EPA) will award the University an $880,000grant for new computer modeling tools to accurately predict thebenefits of different water quality improvement projects. Additional grants and technical assistance will go to the TahoeRegional Planning Agency (TRPA) for developing a continuousmonitoring data for use in the model. These actions togetherwill allow planners to prioritize and evaluate the effectivenessof water quality improvement projects. In addition, theAdministration is providing new resources for a number of otheractions to improve scientific and public understanding of LakeTahoe's complex environment, including new support formonitoring, research and public education.

      The Department of Transportation (DOT) will boost funding and EPAwill provide technical support for the master plan to upgradepaved roads in the basin to improve erosion control andstormwater management. DOT will also fund a new jointCalifornia/Nevada plan to utilize an advanced weather informationsystem to reduce wintertime application of sand, salt, and de-icing chemicals, some of which enter the lake and harm waterquality.

      The USDA Forest Service (USFS) will significantly increase itswork to obliterate old logging roads, eliminating 29 miles peryear and, in 10 years, completely eliminating the unused roadsand returning that land to its natural condition. Many suchroads were built at the turn of the century to provide timber forthe Comstock silver mines. Now unused, these roads shed sedimentinto streams and diminish the lake's fabled water quality.

      EPA will provide additional funding to the states for wetland andstream restoration projects to filter out contaminants andimprove water quality and habitat.

      The Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the localcommunity, is completing a federally-funded Tahoe Basin study tofocus on water quality, wetlands habitat, and other environmentalrestoration opportunities in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

      The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) willprovide technical expertise to implement a backyardconservation initiative for individual homeowners who ask forassistance with nutrient and water management of their landscape. NRCS will also provide technical assistance to individuals inlocal communities with erosion and sediment control efforts onprivate land.

      Because Lake Tahoe is a source of drinking water for the basin,EPA will provide new funding under the Safe Drinking Water Act toTRPA to ensure protection of public health.

      The USFS will conduct a $2.6 million comprehensive watershedassessment in the Lake Tahoe Basin over the next five years.

    Guarding Against Catastrophic Wildfire. The Administration isacting to restore the forest and reduce the risk of catastrophicwildfire.

      Over the next five years, USFS will spend $2 million to clearbrush and dead wood from more than 3,500 federally owned lotsinterspersed with private commercial and residential lots in theTahoe basin. This action will protect private property fromforest fires and help the environment.

      USFS will use prescribed fire and other means to reduce fuels onapproximately 3,000 acres of open forest lands each year. About1,000 acres will be burned per year. These steps will helpreturn natural ecological processes to Tahoe s forests.

      USFS will continue efforts to acquire environmentally sensitiveand valuable parcels of land in the Lake Tahoe Basin throughvarious authorities including the Land and Water ConservationFund and the Burton-Santini Act. These purchases, all done onthe basis of willing seller/willing buyer, will help reducedevelopment pressures in the Tahoe basin and ensure that specialplaces are protected forever. USDA will commit $1 million ofnew funds annually in addition to the $1 million currently beingprovided.

      The President will support the Lake Tahoe Basin Forest HealthConsensus Group's efforts to shape, monitor and update acomprehensive and widely supported forest management strategy forthe Tahoe basin, and ask that recommendations of the Group beforwarded to the Administration for changes in law or policyneeded to support that strategy.

    Improved Transportation. The Administration is taking actionto improve transportation in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Thesemeasures will reduce congestion and cut transportation-relatedpollution of the air and water.

      At the south end of the lake, EPA and Department ofTransportation will award funds to implement the CoordinatedTransit System (CTS). This CTS will coordinate and combineoperation of mass transit vehicles owned by various public andprivate entities serving visitors at Lake Tahoe.

      On the east side, DOT and USDA Forest Service will evaluate a newshuttle service for Lake Tahoe beachgoers. The East Shore BeachShuttle, which began July 12, is designed to address erosion,congestion and safety hazards along SR 28.

      On the north shore, the Administration supports attempts toprovide $1.5 million in DOT funding and USFS will provide up to60 acres of land for a transit center to reduce trafficcongestion and pollution.

      As the Vice President announced yesterday, DOT will provide$6 million to fund work at Reno/Tahoe International Airport torepair the cross-wind runway damaged during the recent winterfloods. This will ensure that this critical gateway is open fortravelers heading to Lake Tahoe.

      The United States Postal Service will help Lake Tahoe and itsresidents by extending home and clustered box mail service tocommunities on the west shore of Lake Tahoe and by replacing itscurrent antiquated fleet of diesel-powered trucks with cleanerburning compressed natural gas vehicles. These actions willreduce local vehicle traffic and air pollution. The PostalService, which is an independent agency, is taking theseimportant steps after listening to comments during Forum-relatedworkshops this summer.

  2. Working in Partnership. The Administration isexpanding and strengthening coordination among its own agenciesand with California, Nevada, TRPA, and the Washoe Tribe.

      The President is signing an executive order directing federalagencies to establish a formal interagency partnership chargedwith assuring coordination and efficient management of federalprograms, projects, and activities within Lake Tahoe. This willinclude the development of a linked database sponsored by the USGeological Survey. The partnership will also be directed to takea range of steps to ensure close coordination with state, localand tribal governments and more input from local citizens. Thiswill not be a top-down federal mandate on the states or TRPA, buta pledge to collaborate and share resources for the greatestpossible benefit to Lake Tahoe.

      The United States, through USFS, and the Washoe Tribe areentering into a government-to-government agreement to promote astronger working relationship on issues affecting the WashoeTribe in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

      USFS and the Washoe Tribe will enter into a special use agreementto use an approximately 350 acre meadow for the care andharvesting of plants for traditional purposes.

      USFS and the Washoe Tribe will enter into a special use permitfor 12 to 15 acres to begin the process of establishing a WashoeCultural Center. The agreement will include provisions for anadditional parcel of land that will ensure tribal members accessto the water s edge for the first time in more than 100 years. This return to the water's edge is central to the Washoe'scultural identity; in Washoe, the word (DaOwAga) that translatesapproximately into Tahoe means edge of the lake.

      Two weeks ago, the Army Corps of Engineers and Tahoe RegionalPlanning Agency reached a partnership agreement on watershedrestoration.

      Earlier this week, California and Nevada announced a cooperativeagreement to strengthen their already exemplary relationship onLake Tahoe, a partnership the Administration supports and applauds.

      EPA, California, and Nevada are already drafting an agreement toensure that they coordinate in research and implementation ofwater quality restoration measures with local partners.

      The agencies are directed to provide the funds necessary forthese commitments within the budget targets set in the BipartisanBudget Agreement.

      The President is directing his cabinet to make every effort toensure that all necessary agreements are in place not later than90 days after the event.

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