The Gondola’s Going Up
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows announced that tree cutting for construction of the resort’s gondola connecting its two bases began on April 21, excavation began May 20, and full-on construction began at both resorts May 26. The Alterra-owned company is using a helicopter to assist with tree removal, and expects the first towers connecting the resort-to-resort people mover to be erected in early June.
Noise emanating from heavy construction activities, including helicopter flights, is prohibited on Sundays and federal holidays and will occur Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Construction updates are available on Squaw Alpine’s website.
Campfire and Charcoal Ban In Place
As of May 24, all backyard-type campfires and charcoal barbecues are prohibited in the Truckee area. This is a regional ban that will continue through November 2021.
Usage of gas barbecues and gas fire pits is allowed, and designated campgrounds are exempt. Residents and visitors can report illegal campfires by calling 911. Additionally, Calfire has suspended all residential debris burning effective May 24 for the season.
More details at truckeefire.org/fire-ban-faq.
~ Truckee Fire Protection District press release
Boat Launch Closed to Motorized Vessels for 2021
Due to below anticipated lake levels, the Tahoe Vista Recreation Area boat launch will not open to motorized vessels for the 2021 boating season.
Non-motorized crafts will have access to the launch following a self-assessment for aquatic invasive species using the clean, drain, and dry method.
According to updated data received from the U.S. Geological Service, California’s snowpack is just 6% of its average and Lake Tahoe’s water levels are at a five-year low. In a recent media statement, the U.S. District Court Water Master based in Reno explained that winter runoff has already peaked for the season, and water levels are predicted to “reach a critical low point, with lake levels reaching the natural rim by late summer.”
The TVRA boat launch is limited by the depth of water covering a sandbar at the exit of the marina, adjacent to the marina’s bulkhead. At this time, the water levels above the sandbar are measuring approximately one foot of depth, which is too low to safely allow passage of motorized vessels.
The TVRA beach will remain open. Visitors are advised to please avoid the construction zone upon arrival to TVRA and plan for extra time to accommodate for summer crowds and offsite parking. To find another launch location, visit tahoeboatinspections.com.
~ NTPUD press release
Truckee Springs Protected, Opening to the Public Soon
The Truckee Donner Land Trust has announced the successful acquisition of Truckee Springs, 26 acres of open space along the Truckee River in downtown Truckee.
The land trust is working to provide public access as soon as possible, as there is currently no parking available on the property or on South River Street. Stay tuned for an announcement when the property is fully open for the public to enjoy.
Starting in 2022, TDLT and the Town of Truckee will extend the Truckee River Legacy Trail across the property, continuing west where it will eventually connect to Donner Lake. Construction on a new pedestrian bridge crossing the river to West River Street will also begin, creating a connection between the town’s historic commercial core and Truckee Springs.
TDLT raised $10.3 million to acquire the property, construct the bridge, and care for the land — with hundreds of local residents chipping in more than $3 million. Major funders include the California Wildlife Conservation Board, the California Natural Resources Agency, the Town of Truckee, Truckee Tahoe Airport, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, Vail Resorts EpicPromise, the Manitou Fund, Truckee River Legacy Foundation, and the Martis Camp Foundation. Individual major donors Ralph Eschenbach and Carol Provan provided a million-dollar matching gift to private donations.
(Read Truckee Springs Eternal online for the winding backstory of this property.)
~ TDLT update
Tahoe’s First On-Water Charger is Powering 100% Electric Watersports Boats
Homewood Resort’s marina is now home to Tahoe’s first on-the-water electric boat charging station. The boating industry is following in the footsteps of the automotive transition to electric vehicles, with Homewood Resort’s marina and its management company, JMA Ventures, leading the transition on Big Blue.
The redevelopment project’s initial phase is slated to break ground this summer with state-of-the-art environmental redevelopment and stewardship practices. In partnership with Ingenity and Superior Boat Repair & Sales, beginning June 1, marina guests began experiencing the world’s first 100% electric watersport boat, the Super Air Nautique GS22E, powered by Ingenity. For more information on how to book a GS22E experience at Homewood Resort’s marina, visit homewoodmarina.net/electric-boat-lake-tahoe.
~ Homewood Resort press release
Placer County Joins Regional Clean Tahoe Partnership for Increased Trash Service
Placer County is teaming up on trash in North Lake Tahoe, joining neighboring jurisdictions in the nonprofit Clean Tahoe initiative to increase litter and trash services in the Basin.
When looking to address such issues, the county found that other jurisdictions had similar concerns, including the Incline Village General Improvement District, California State Parks, California Tahoe Conservancy, Town of Truckee, and Nevada Department of Transportation. These agencies joined Placer in a proposed joint memorandum of understanding commemorating each jurisdiction’s financial commitment to Clean Tahoe.
Clean Tahoe provides several services, including litter removal and hauling services, volunteer litter pickup programs, and more. It is already operating in South Lake Tahoe, which made the program a natural choice to complement the many efforts happening at a county level. This service will be in addition to the regular trash services through Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal.
Placer’s $150,000, 12-month contract with Clean Tahoe began June 1. Residents can learn more about Clean Tahoe at clean-tahoe.org.
~ Placer County press release
Construction of Visitor Center, Amphitheater
The construction of the new, highly-anticipated visitor center and amphitheater at the popular Spooner Lake – Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park began May 17. The park will remain open during construction; however, the main entrance is scheduled to be closed to vehicle access July 18 to 24. Several areas adjacent to the public parking lot will be restricted and portable restrooms will be made available while the project is underway, which is anticipated to be completed early next year.
The new facilities at Spooner Lake will offer visitors high quality interpretive programming and environmental education, and will serve as a base for natural and cultural history programs, ranger-led hikes and tours, and an outdoor science venue for students. The project will also serve as a major portal to more than 60 miles of paths and trails spanning 13,000 acres of spectacular non-motorized, primitive wilderness within the Lake Tahoe Basin.
For project updates visit parks.nv.gov/spooner.
~ Nevada State Parks press release
Coburn Crossing Audit Causes Concern, Developers Concede
Local nonprofit Mountain Area Preservation and its supporters have been talking about East Jibboom Street’s new housing project for a long time. The housing development, approved by the Truckee Town Council in January 2017, consists of 138 rental apartments with 132 advertised at market rate and six of the apartments available to low-income households.
MAP corresponded numerous times with the Town of Truckee about providing an independent rental audit of Coburn Crossing in addition to Truckee’s own audit of the development’s use agreement. The town’s audit made public an exemption in the agreement allowing for some of the units to be rented to non-local people, and MAP requested this language be withdrawn as it is “completely counter to the intention of the project,” according to a public comment the nonprofit submitted at an April 13 council meeting. MAP was satisfied that developers agreed publically in the same council meeting to remove the language that would allow non-locals to rent units and is tracking their progress to ensure the rentals are reserved for full-time residents, executive director Alexis Ollar told the Ink in an email.
Covid-19 Memorial to Arrive Truckee
The Nevada County Remembrance Memorial, an interactive tribute to those who lost their lives to Covid-19, will open to the public starting June 18 at Victory Plaza on Donner Pass Road. The memorial was initially dedicated in Nevada City in May and will spend in Truckee for six weeks before making several other stops around the county. After Aug. 12, the memorial will be transferred to downtown Grass Valley for another six weeks, and finally arrive in its permanent residence at the Eric Rood Administrative Center in Nevada City in October.
A 6-foot-high column woven of natural elements from Nevada County, the memorial bears an inscription etched in local granite. Engraved manzanita rings hanging from willow branches will honor each resident who passed away from communities throughout the county.
“The memorial is interactive and gives families a way to acknowledge their loved ones and also allows the community to add condolence messages,” artist Alicia Funk, one of the memorial organizers, wrote in an email to Moonshine Ink. “The Nevada County Remembers website provides a space for families to post obituaries and photos as well as a way for community members of all ages to add their stories of what they’ve experienced during the pandemic.”
A team of local artists and community members envisioned and donated their time to construct the memorial, including Funk, Peggy Wright, Lyssa Skeahan and Kevin Cowan of Other World Customs, Charles Kritzon, and Sarah Regan. Sweet Roots Farm contributed the Willow branches, Liam Ellerby of the Curious Forge completed the metalwork, Grass Valley Sign provided the plaques, and Robinson’s donated the local granite.
Summer 2021 North Tahoe Regional Park Enhancements
On June 1, the North Tahoe Public Utility District began a series of enhancements and upgrades to the North Tahoe Regional Park’s synthetic turf field and paved pathways.
The $2 million project includes the replacement and expansion of the synthetic turf field, which was originally built in 2007 and is one of the only sports fields of its kind in the Lake Tahoe Basin. NTPUD will also add a new paved pathway connecting the park’s tennis courts to the upper parking lot and creating a fully accessible trail loop between the two main parking areas.
The synthetic turf field will be expanded from 72,000 square feet to 112,000 square feet, allowing for a full-size NCAA-/NAIA-sanctioned soccer and lacrosse field. Improved runoff areas, end zones, and expanded sideline areas for spectators and teams will also be added.
The project is funded through the NTPUD’s ongoing Capital Improvement Program, the Placer County Park Dedication Fee Program, and the State of California’s Proposition 68 Per Capita Grant Program.
Construction on field four and the accessible pathway project is expected to be completed before the end of the year. The field will be closed to the public during construction. More information about the North Tahoe Regional Park is available online at northtahoeparks.com.
~ NTPUD press release
Does Cold Wildfire Smoke Contribute to Water Repellent Soils in Burned Areas?
After a wildfire, soils in burned areas often become water repellent, leading to increased erosion and flooding after rainfall events — a phenomenon that many scientists have attributed to smoke and heat-induced changes in soil chemistry. But this post-fire water repellency may also be caused by wildfire smoke in the absence of heat, according to a new paper from the Desert Research Institute.
In this pilot study, an interdisciplinary team of scientists led by DRI Associate Research Professor of Atmospheric Science Vera Samburova, Ph.D., exposed samples of clean sand to smoke from burning Jeffrey pine needles and branches in DRI’s combustion chamber, then analyzed the time it took for water droplets placed on the sand surface to be absorbed.
The pilot study investigated the effects of smoke and heat on water repellency of the sand and was the first study to also incorporate an analysis of cold smoke. In the experiments, sand was used in place of soil because it could be cleaned thoroughly and analyzed accurately, and Jeffrey pine for a fuel source as it represents a common wildland fire fuel in the Western U.S.
Before exposure to Jeffrey pine smoke, water droplets placed on the surface of the sand samples were quickly absorbed. But after exposure to smoke, the sand samples showed severe to extreme water repellency, in some cases retaining water droplets on the soil surface for more than 50 minutes without them soaking in. It made little difference whether or not samples had been exposed to heat and smoke, or just cold smoke.
“The classic explanation for fire-induced water repellency is that it is caused as smoke diffuses under rather hot conditions and settles down into the soils, but our work shows that the smoke does not have to be hot to turn the sand hydrophobic — simply the presence of the chemical substances in the smoke is enough,” Samburova said. “This is something we really need to look deeper into because soil water repellency leads to increases in flooding, erosion, and surface runoff.”
The project team is now working on a larger proposal to further investigate questions touched on by this study about the roles of heat and smoke in fire-induced water repellency.
The full text of the paper, Effect of Biomass-Burning Emissions on Soil Water Repellency: A Pilot Laboratory Study, is available at mdpi.com/2571-6255/4/2/24.
~ DRI press release
U.S. Senate Introduces Tahoe Restoration Legislation
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE
On May 12, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to extend the authorization of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, which has served as the cornerstone for federal funding since the original law passed in 2000, helping deliver millions in federal funding for environmental protection and habitat restoration programs to Tahoe. This legislation is supported by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Representatives Mark Amodei (R-Nev.-02), John Garamendi (D-Calif.-03), Dina Titus (D-Nev.-01), Susie Lee (D-Nev.-03), and Steven Horsford (D-Nev.-04).
Local powerhouse nonprofit League to Save Lake Tahoe (Keep Tahoe Blue) is also a strong supporter of this proposed legislation as a critical pathway to extend and expand the positive impacts that the Lake Tahoe Restoration Acts of 2000 and 2016 have delivered to Tahoe’s environment and community.
~ Keep Tahoe Blue press release
Adopted General Plan Housing Element Update, Additional $575,000 Pledged for Affordable Housing Efforts
Placer County’s board of supervisors on May 11 adopted the county’s comprehensive update of its general plan housing element, outlining its policies and programs to meet existing and projected housing needs for all Placer residents through 2029.
State law requires that the adopted housing element be submitted to the Department of Housing and Community Development for final review and certification.
The update includes 58 policies (23 are new) and 49 programs (28 are new), and the board concurrently approved a funding plan that would provide an additional $575,000 to Housing Trust Placer for more affordable housing projects. Placer supported the launch of the private trust in 2019 to encourage contributions from private, public, and nonprofit partners to help accelerate housing construction.
The funding plan includes an initial $75,000 for start-up costs and an additional $500,000 as a cash match to private contributions to the trust to support affordable housing projects and programs.
~ Placer County press release
North Lake Tahoe’s Martis Valley Trail Project Reaches Major Milestone
The Martis Valley Trail project reached a major milestone at the end of May as the Placer County board of supervisors voted to execute an easement agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, allowing construction of this critical reach of the larger trail system envisioned for the region to move forward.
The 10.2-mile paved pathway will connect the Town of Truckee through Martis Valley and Northstar Village and up to the Brockway Summit above Lake Tahoe. The project is a collaborative project management effort between Placer County and Northstar Community Services District. The Resort at Northstar has also provided needed trail easements.
Washoe Tribe members were consulted to understand their history and concerns. With continuing input from the tribe, the project will incorporate protections of cultural resources and convey the story of the tribe’s rich history in the valley.
Majority funding for the project will be provided by local county park development funds and Transient Occupancy Tax, which were approved by the board earlier this year.
The trail will ultimately become part of the Resort Triangle Trail, which is slated to connect the communities of Kings Beach, Tahoe City, Olympic Valley, Truckee, Martis Valley, and Northstar in a loop. The trail will be paved and separated from highways and roads to maximize the safety and experience of trail users. Connection between the Town of Truckee and Northstar Drive is scheduled for completion by the end of 2022.
~ Placer County press release
Sierra Community House, Take Care Tahoe to Spotlight Mental Health Benefits of Nature
Social services nonprofit Sierra Community House announced a collaboration with Take Care Tahoe, a messaging campaign with over 60 partner organizations, to spotlight the many mental health benefits of nature. The partnership will help Sierra Community House and the Tahoe Truckee Suicide Prevention Coalition expand their reach and work to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. The campaign launched in May for Mental Health Awareness Month and is ongoing.
The peak of the Covid-19 pandemic saw the highest levels of anxiety and depression reported in the U.S., according to Mental Health America, and an alarming number of children reported thoughts of suicide and self-harm in 2020. Additionally, SCH reported a 200% increase in calls to its 24-hour crisis line during the period of March 2020 through February 2021, highlighting the need to focus on this issue.
~ SCH press release