|Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum
Summary of Three Issue Workshops
July 26, 1997
- Water Quality Workshop
Hosted by EPA Administrator Carol Browner and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army forCivil Works Michael Davis on June 18, 1997
The Lake Tahoe Water Quality Issues workshop addressed the diminishing water clarity ofLake Tahoe and the effect this has on the recreation/tourism-based economy of the region. The workshop brought together a diverse group of participants and highlighted a number ofareas of agreement on successes, challenges and needed actions. Sessions were held on threeaspects of Lake Tahoe water quality: water clarity, watershed management, and wetlands andstream restoration.
Water Clarity. Participants agreed that Lake Tahoe water clarity is worsening, that thebeauty of the Lake draws visitors and drives the recreation/tourism-based economy, and thatfurther worsening of the water clarity will have a major negative impact on the region seconomy. It was agreed that there is strong scientific basis for action and that tools andadditional data need to be developed in order to help direct scarce resources to the mosteffective solutions.
Watershed Management. There was consensus that poorly-planned development andthe resulting erosion have led to increased run-off into the lake, increasing the Lake s nutrientlevel and degrading water quality. Participants agreed that better environmental monitoring isneeded, as well as increased coordinated research and planning efforts among all of thepartners in the Basin.
Wetlands and Stream Zone Restoration. There was agreement that the loss anddegradation of existing wetlands and stream zones has contributed greatly to the water clarityproblem by reducing the natural filtration which they provide. The consensus was that thereis a need for continued wetlands protection and restoration efforts, as well as for continuedand accelerated sensitive land acquisition for erosion control, and logging road rehabilitation.
- Forest Ecosystem Restoration, Recreation and Tourism Workshop
Hosted by Agriculture Secretary Glickman and Interior Secretary Babbitt on June 30,1997
The Forest Ecosystem Restoration, Recreation and Tourism Workshop brought together adiverse group of local business people, environmentalists, scientists, local, state and tribalgovernments, and federal agencies dedicated to the restoration and protection of the LakeTahoe ecosystem and the continued viability of the region as a recreation and tourism-basedeconomy.
Recreation and Tourism. A consensus exists on the direct linkage between theenvironment and the economy. The partnership between environmental and business interestsrecognizes that the demand for recreation must be addressed without compromising ecosystemand watershed protection. Opportunities exist for all levels of government to avoidduplication of efforts when conducting environmental analysis to determine appropriate usesof public land to supply recreation opportunities. There is a need to develop a recreationmaster plan, assessing the need for improved transit facilities and service and adatabase/mapping system. Recreation fees could be established with funds invested locally tofinance improvements.
Forest Ecosystem Restoration. The partners recognize that ecosystem restoration mustincorporate human values. A Forest Health Consensus Group was created in 1992 to work ona strategy for sustaining forest health in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The threat of wildfire mustbe reduced through mechanical thinning, brush removal and prescribed fire. Funding isneeded for these activities and for closing and rehabilitating unneeded roads, monitoringforest conditions to assist private landowners in reducing fire risk and soil erosion on theirlands. The federal government should continue to acquire environmentally important lands.
Fire Hazard Reduction Around the Tahoe Communities. Uncontrolled wildfire in theBasin could have a devastating effect on the Basin s residents, visitors, environment andeconomy. Coalitions have been built among multiple agencies, organizations, and privateproperty owners to share responsibilities in preventing fires. Public education and researchneeds to be increased to encourage the use of prescribed fire and to ensure all methods ofhazard reduction are being considered.
- Transportation Workshop
Hosted by Transportation Secretary Slater on July 19
This workshop addressed the role of transportation in supporting the Tahoe Basin s mostimportant industries tourism, gaming and recreation while reducing its impacts on theenvironment. Tahoe s business community is in substantial agreement with its environmentalorganizations regarding desired transportation solutions. The biggest challenge facingimplementation is Congressional support for funding. To this end, local workshopparticipants indicated support for locally-controlled funding sources.
Access to the Basin. Basin access is critical to the health of the tourism industry. Because access relies almost entirely on the automobile, the states of California and Nevadamust invest substantially to maintain road access during snows, floods, storms andearthquakes. To introduce additional transportation modes and technologies will requireplanning, public outreach and education.
Reducing Automobile Dependency. The substantial population growth in the urbanareas surrounding Lake Tahoe, together with the increased interest in recreation, has led to alarge increase in the number of day visitors and a concurrent increase in traffic congestion. Relative to overnight visitors, these day users provide about one-fourth the economic impact. Public and private transit fleets are beginning to be merged in South Lake Tahoe, andparticipants support extending the concept throughout the basin. Parking management isanother tool for cutting congestion and pollution.
Bicycle, Pedestrian and Recreational Transportation. The surge in tourism has putpressure on the Forest Service s trail system, which is well suited for hiking but lackssufficient bicycle trails. Pedestrians also face impediments, as Tahoe s major commercialcenters have been designed almost entirely for the automobile. Participants called for theremoval of institutional barriers that prevent roadway improvements from incorporating betterbike paths and sidewalks. Strong support was expressed for expanding existing bikenetworks. Existing sidewalks should be significantly improved to increase pedestrian safetyand access to parking and transit.
Environmental Effects of Transportation. Improvements in auto emissions technologyhave sharply reduced levels of many primary pollutants. Visibility, however, is reduced byhaze from fine particle emissions, half of which are generated from outside the basin in thesummer. To protect water quality, erosion and pollutant control systems along the LakeTahoe highway system must be replaced and maintained. Widespread use of alternative fuelvehicles faces technological challenges caused by the high altitude and cold climate of theTahoe Basin.
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