Our land of new promise will be a nation that meets its obligations . . . a nation that fortifies the world s most productive economy even as it protects the great natural bounty of our water, air, and majestic land.
Second Inaugural Address,
January 20, 1997
Over the past two months, the Clinton Administration has sought to highlight the progress made in Lake Tahoe and to reaffirm our commitment to its protection. The Administration convened three workshops leading up to the Presidential Forum on water quality; forest restoration, recreation and tourism; and transportation.
The Administration heard two clear messages at the workshops: First, the Administration should reaffirm its role in helping to manage this national treasure by improving coordination among federal agencies and with California, Nevada, the Washoe Tribe, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, other local units of government; this cooperation should be guided by the people in the region. Second, the Administration should take meaningful new 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 acting on those recommendations. Over the past five years, federal agencies have committed an average of $12 million a year in the Lake Tahoe basin. The Administration is committing to double its annual investment in the basin for the next two years and will work with state and local partners to expand our joint commitment in succeeding years. Specifically, the Administration will take the following actions:
Improving Lake Tahoe's Fabled Water Quality.
The President will work with Congress to secure funding for a new pipeline to carry wastewater out of the Tahoe basin. The Administration supports this effort aimed at preventing a catastrophic spill of wastewater into the lake by replacing the deteriorating wastewater pipeline at South Lake Tahoe.
In an expansion of the University of California at Davis long history of scientific leadership at Lake Tahoe, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will award the University an $880,000 grant for new computer modeling tools to accurately predict the benefits of different water quality improvement projects. Additional grants and technical assistance will go to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) for developing a continuous monitoring data for use in the model. These actions together will allow planners to prioritize and evaluate the effectiveness of water quality improvement projects. In addition, the Administration is providing new resources for a number of other actions to improve scientific and public understanding of Lake Tahoe's complex environment, including new support for monitoring, research and public education.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) will boost funding and EPA will provide technical support for the master plan to upgrade paved roads in the basin to improve erosion control and stormwater management. DOT will also fund a new joint California/Nevada plan to utilize an advanced weather information system to reduce wintertime application of sand, salt, and de- icing chemicals, some of which enter the lake and harm water quality.
The USDA Forest Service (USFS) will significantly increase its work to obliterate old logging roads, eliminating 29 miles per year and, in 10 years, completely eliminating the unused roads and returning that land to its natural condition. Many such roads were built at the turn of the century to provide timber for the Comstock silver mines. Now unused, these roads shed sediment into streams and diminish the lake's fabled water quality.
EPA will provide additional funding to the states for wetland and stream restoration projects to filter out contaminants and improve water quality and habitat.
The Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the local community, is completing a federally-funded Tahoe Basin study to focus on water quality, wetlands habitat, and other environmental restoration opportunities in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide technical expertise to implement a backyard conservation initiative for individual homeowners who ask for assistance with nutrient and water management of their landscape. NRCS will also provide technical assistance to individuals in local communities with erosion and sediment control efforts on private land.
Because Lake Tahoe is a source of drinking water for the basin, EPA will provide new funding under the Safe Drinking Water Act to TRPA to ensure protection of public health.
The USFS will conduct a $2.6 million comprehensive watershed assessment in the Lake Tahoe Basin over the next five years.
Guarding Against Catastrophic Wildfire. The Administration is acting to restore the forest and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
Over the next five years, USFS will spend $2 million to clear brush and dead wood from more than 3,500 federally owned lots interspersed with private commercial and residential lots in the Tahoe basin. This action will protect private property from forest fires and help the environment.
USFS will use prescribed fire and other means to reduce fuels on approximately 3,000 acres of open forest lands each year. About 1,000 acres will be burned per year. These steps will help return natural ecological processes to Tahoe s forests.
USFS will continue efforts to acquire environmentally sensitive and valuable parcels of land in the Lake Tahoe Basin through various authorities including the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Burton-Santini Act. These purchases, all done on the basis of willing seller/willing buyer, will help reduce development pressures in the Tahoe basin and ensure that special places are protected forever. USDA will commit $1 million of new funds annually in addition to the $1 million currently being provided.
The President will support the Lake Tahoe Basin Forest Health Consensus Group's efforts to shape, monitor and update a comprehensive and widely supported forest management strategy for the Tahoe basin, and ask that recommendations of the Group be forwarded to the Administration for changes in law or policy needed to support that strategy.
Improved Transportation. The Administration is taking action to improve transportation in the Lake Tahoe Basin. These measures will reduce congestion and cut transportation-related pollution of the air and water.
At the south end of the lake, EPA and Department of Transportation will award funds to implement the Coordinated Transit System (CTS). This CTS will coordinate and combine operation of mass transit vehicles owned by various public and private entities serving visitors at Lake Tahoe.
On the east side, DOT and USDA Forest Service will evaluate a new shuttle service for Lake Tahoe beachgoers. The East Shore Beach Shuttle, which began July 12, is designed to address erosion, congestion and safety hazards along SR 28.
On the north shore, the Administration supports attempts to provide $1.5 million in DOT funding and USFS will provide up to 60 acres of land for a transit center to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.
As the Vice President announced yesterday, DOT will provide $6 million to fund work at Reno/Tahoe International Airport to repair the cross-wind runway damaged during the recent winter floods. This will ensure that this critical gateway is open for travelers heading to Lake Tahoe.
The United States Postal Service will help Lake Tahoe and its residents by extending home and clustered box mail service to communities on the west shore of Lake Tahoe and by replacing its current antiquated fleet of diesel-powered trucks with cleaner burning compressed natural gas vehicles. These actions will reduce local vehicle traffic and air pollution. The Postal Service, which is an independent agency, is taking these important steps after listening to comments during Forum-related workshops this summer.
The President is signing an executive order directing federal agencies to establish a formal interagency partnership charged with assuring coordination and efficient management of federal programs, projects, and activities within Lake Tahoe. This will include the development of a linked database sponsored by the US Geological Survey. The partnership will also be directed to take a range of steps to ensure close coordination with state, local and tribal governments and more input from local citizens. This will not be a top-down federal mandate on the states or TRPA, but a pledge to collaborate and share resources for the greatest possible benefit to Lake Tahoe.
The United States, through USFS, and the Washoe Tribe are entering into a government-to-government agreement to promote a stronger working relationship on issues affecting the Washoe Tribe in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
USFS and the Washoe Tribe will enter into a special use agreement to use an approximately 350 acre meadow for the care and harvesting of plants for traditional purposes.
USFS and the Washoe Tribe will enter into a special use permit for 12 to 15 acres to begin the process of establishing a Washoe Cultural Center. The agreement will include provisions for an additional parcel of land that will ensure tribal members access to 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's cultural identity; in Washoe, the word (DaOwAga) that translates approximately into Tahoe means edge of the lake.
Two weeks ago, the Army Corps of Engineers and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency reached a partnership agreement on watershed restoration.
Earlier this week, California and Nevada announced a cooperative agreement to strengthen their already exemplary relationship on Lake Tahoe, a partnership the Administration supports and applauds.
EPA, California, and Nevada are already drafting an agreement to ensure that they coordinate in research and implementation of water quality restoration measures with local partners.
The agencies are directed to provide the funds necessary for these commitments within the budget targets set in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement.
The President is directing his cabinet to make every effort to ensure that all necessary agreements are in place not later than 90 days after the event.
Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum