Hosted by EPA Administrator Carol Browner and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Davis on June 18, 1997
The Lake Tahoe Water Quality Issues workshop addressed the diminishing water clarity of Lake 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 of areas of agreement on successes, challenges and needed actions. Sessions were held on three aspects of Lake Tahoe water quality: water clarity, watershed management, and wetlands and stream restoration.
Water Clarity. Participants agreed that Lake Tahoe water clarity is worsening, that the beauty of the Lake draws visitors and drives the recreation/tourism-based economy, and that further worsening of the water clarity will have a major negative impact on the region s economy. It was agreed that there is strong scientific basis for action and that tools and additional data need to be developed in order to help direct scarce resources to the most effective solutions.
Watershed Management. There was consensus that poorly-planned development and the resulting erosion have led to increased run-off into the lake, increasing the Lake s nutrient level and degrading water quality. Participants agreed that better environmental monitoring is needed, as well as increased coordinated research and planning efforts among all of the partners in the Basin.
Wetlands and Stream Zone Restoration. There was agreement that the loss and degradation of existing wetlands and stream zones has contributed greatly to the water clarity problem by reducing the natural filtration which they provide. The consensus was that there is a need for continued wetlands protection and restoration efforts, as well as for continued and accelerated sensitive land acquisition for erosion control, and logging road rehabilitation.
Hosted by Agriculture Secretary Glickman and Interior Secretary Babbitt on June 30, 1997
The Forest Ecosystem Restoration, Recreation and Tourism Workshop brought together a diverse group of local business people, environmentalists, scientists, local, state and tribal governments, and federal agencies dedicated to the restoration and protection of the Lake Tahoe ecosystem and the continued viability of the region as a recreation and tourism-based economy.
Recreation and Tourism. A consensus exists on the direct linkage between the environment and the economy. The partnership between environmental and business interests recognizes that the demand for recreation must be addressed without compromising ecosystem and watershed protection. Opportunities exist for all levels of government to avoid duplication of efforts when conducting environmental analysis to determine appropriate uses of public land to supply recreation opportunities. There is a need to develop a recreation master plan, assessing the need for improved transit facilities and service and a database/mapping system. Recreation fees could be established with funds invested locally to finance improvements.
Forest Ecosystem Restoration. The partners recognize that ecosystem restoration must incorporate human values. A Forest Health Consensus Group was created in 1992 to work on a strategy for sustaining forest health in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The threat of wildfire must be reduced through mechanical thinning, brush removal and prescribed fire. Funding is needed for these activities and for closing and rehabilitating unneeded roads, monitoring forest conditions to assist private landowners in reducing fire risk and soil erosion on their lands. The federal government should continue to acquire environmentally important lands.
Fire Hazard Reduction Around the Tahoe Communities. Uncontrolled wildfire in the Basin could have a devastating effect on the Basin s residents, visitors, environment and economy. Coalitions have been built among multiple agencies, organizations, and private property owners to share responsibilities in preventing fires. Public education and research needs to be increased to encourage the use of prescribed fire and to ensure all methods of hazard reduction are being considered.
Hosted by Transportation Secretary Slater on July 19
This workshop addressed the role of transportation in supporting the Tahoe Basin s most important industries tourism, gaming and recreation while reducing its impacts on the environment. Tahoe s business community is in substantial agreement with its environmental organizations regarding desired transportation solutions. The biggest challenge facing implementation is Congressional support for funding. To this end, local workshop participants 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 Nevada must invest substantially to maintain road access during snows, floods, storms and earthquakes. To introduce additional transportation modes and technologies will require planning, public outreach and education.
Reducing Automobile Dependency. The substantial population growth in the urban areas surrounding Lake Tahoe, together with the increased interest in recreation, has led to a large 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, and participants support extending the concept throughout the basin. Parking management is another tool for cutting congestion and pollution.
Bicycle, Pedestrian and Recreational Transportation. The surge in tourism has put pressure on the Forest Service s trail system, which is well suited for hiking but lacks sufficient bicycle trails. Pedestrians also face impediments, as Tahoe s major commercial centers have been designed almost entirely for the automobile. Participants called for the removal of institutional barriers that prevent roadway improvements from incorporating better bike paths and sidewalks. Strong support was expressed for expanding existing bike networks. Existing sidewalks should be significantly improved to increase pedestrian safety and access to parking and transit.
Environmental Effects of Transportation. Improvements in auto emissions technology have sharply reduced levels of many primary pollutants. Visibility, however, is reduced by haze from fine particle emissions, half of which are generated from outside the basin in the summer. To protect water quality, erosion and pollutant control systems along the Lake Tahoe highway system must be replaced and maintained. Widespread use of alternative fuel vehicles faces technological challenges caused by the high altitude and cold climate of the Tahoe Basin.
Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum