Sierra Watch Secures Court Precedent Further Protecting Lake Tahoe
The California Third District Court of Appeals took action in September that could have major implications for new development proposed in the Tahoe Sierra. The court granted Sierra Watch’s request for partial publication of its August decisions over Alterra Mountain Company’s proposed development in North Tahoe, thereby securing the conservationists’ win as legal precedent.
For decades, development in the Tahoe Basin, as defined as the watershed of Lake Tahoe, has been highly regulated, monitored by the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to ensure that new projects do not harm the lake’s famously blue waters. Projects just outside the Tahoe Basin, however, do not fall under that jurisdiction even though they can have a major impact on the lake. Such is the case for Alterra’s proposed development in Olympic Valley. Because snowmelt in the valley does not flow into the lake but instead into the Truckee River, land use decision-making authority falls exclusively to Placer County, not the TRPA.
Traffic from Alterra’s proposed development, however, would pour into the Tahoe Basin, adding more than 1,000 new daily car trips to Tahoe’s traffic — each car contributing the pollutants which would cloud the lake and rob it of its clarity.
In its case against Alterra’s project, Sierra Watch argued that the California Environmental Quality Act required vigorous review of potential impacts on the lake.
Alterra countered that there was no need to review potential impacts because the project “did not propose development in the Tahoe Basin.”
The court agreed with Sierra Watch, writing in its decision, “Lake Tahoe is a unique and significant environmental resource” that merits special emphasis in environmental review; and review must “determine whether the project’s impacts on Lake Tahoe and the Basin were potentially significant — not simply summarize, and then declare inapplicable, another agency’s framework for evaluating these types of issues.”
~ Sierra Watch press release
Local Organizations Team Up to Protect Truckee Open Space
After 34 years of land use controversy, conservationists have struck a deal with private property owners to buy 290 acres at the eastern edge of Truckee, known as Canyon Springs, thus creating permanently protected open space.
Truckee Donner Land Trust, Mountain Area Preservation, the Martis Fund, and SOS Glenshire are teaming up to preserve this property forever, but need to raise $11.6 million by Dec. 15 to succeed in their conservation efforts. With a lead grant of $6 million from the Martis Fund and $3.9 million in conservation funds from MAP and the land trust, the organizations are kicking off a capital campaign with $9.9 million secured. An additional $1.7 million needs to be raised by mid-December. Learn about the campaign and how you can help: mountainareapreservation.org/canyon-springs
~ MAP newsletter
TART Connect Transit Program Extends Into Fall
Following the success of the TART Connect micro-transit pilot project this summer, the Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau is extending the program to run until Dec. 9. TART Connect provided more than 45,000 rides in its seven weeks of operation, with 95% of riders saying they would recommend the service to friends.
IVCBVB is investing up to $100,000 to continue TART Connect operations in Incline Village and Crystal Bay, while the League to Save Lake Tahoe has committed $30,000 to support the project. As a result of the funding, the service will operate seven days a week, offering free curb-to-curb rides from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.
In addition to IVCBVB, funding and operational support for TART Connect is provided by Placer County, the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association, Squaw Downtowner, and the Tahoe Transportation District.
TART Connect operates in three zones in the North Lake Tahoe area: Incline Village and Crystal Bay, Dollar Hill to Tahoma, and Tahoe Vista to the state line at Kings Beach.
~ IVCBVB press release
New Study Examines Caldor Fire’s Impact on Lake Tahoe, Soil Burn Map Released
Even as flames from the Caldor Fire threatened Tahoe, scientific research efforts were already underway to learn how the historic blaze was impacting Lake Tahoe’s water quality and clarity. At the end of August, scientists from the bi-state Tahoe Science Advisory Council launched a rapid response scientific study to gather samples of smoke and ashfall from the Caldor Fire. That real-time data gathering is now supporting investigations into changes in algae growth, the presence of clarity-diminishing particles, and other ecological dynamics at play in the lake. The League to Save Lake Tahoe is the project’s lead funder, with additional support provided by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the state of California, the state of Nevada, and the Tahoe Fund.
Armed with new science from the study, land managers and decision makers can take steps to make Tahoe and the entire fire-threatened Sierra Nevada more resilient in the face of prolonged droughts and dry forests.
“We will need a multi-step process to understand the impacts of the Caldor Fire,” said Sudeep Chandra from the University of Nevada, Reno, one of the study’s leading scientists. “A first step is to understand the impacts from the smoke and ash which have recently been deposited in the lake. As soon as the data is ready on how forest thinning and defensible space helped fire suppression, we’ll dive into that as well.”
The smoke and ash impacts research will continue in the coming months. Findings and recommendations will be shared with the public. Updates will be released at keeptahoeblue.org and tahoesciencecouncil.org.
Regarding the fire’s impacts on soil burn severity, USDA Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response assessment teams have been sent to burned private and state lands affected by Caldor. The teams will characterize the fire’s effects on watersheds and identify imminent post-fire threats to human life and safety, property, infrastructure, and natural and cultural resources.
Once the assessment is complete, the team develops BAER emergency treatment recommendations to mitigate identified risks. BAER implementation teams are then brought in after the assessment to implement its recommended treatments and action stabilization measures. BAER specialists recently completed their data gathering and analysis of the Caldor burned area to produce a soil burn severity map of the 218,952-acre fire. The map and the data display categories of soil burn severity to include unburned/very low, low, moderate, and high. Approximately 47% of the 218,952 acres are either unburned/very low and/or low soil burn severity, while 40% are moderate and about 13% are high.
~ League to Save Lake Tahoe, Eldorado National Forest press releases
Tahoe Conservancy to Receive $41 Million to Reduce Wildfire Risk
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a funding package that includes $36 million for the California Tahoe Conservancy to restore forests and reduce wildfire risk at Lake Tahoe. The package includes an additional $5.25 million to help improve Tahoe’s resilience to climate change impacts.
The $36 million will help the conservancy and its partners in the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team to more quickly implement the Lake Tahoe Basin Forest Action Plan. The forest action plan, developed by the TFFT’s 21 federal, tribal, state, and local conservation, land management, and fire agencies, charts a path for collaboration across property boundaries to accelerate landscape restoration and community wildfire protection at Tahoe.
The conservancy will invest the new funding on its own lands and in support of Tahoe partners for work that reduces hazardous fuels in the wildland/urban interface and advances landscape-scale forest restoration.
~ Tahoe Conservancy press release
Nevada County Public Health Awarded National Accreditation
The Nevada County Public Health Department has achieved national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board.
The national accreditation program, jointly supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, sets standards against which the nation’s 3,000-plus public health departments can continuously improve the quality of their services and performance. To receive accreditation, a health department must undergo a peer-reviewed rigorous assessment process to ensure it meets or exceeds these quality standards and measures. Accreditation is maintained for five years. Nevada County Public Health becomes the 21st local health department in California (of the state’s 61 eligible local health departments) to have achieved accreditation status to date.
~ Nevada County press release
Truckee Meadows Fire Donates Fire Engine to Fire Department Devastated by Dixie
Truckee Meadows Fire and Rescue has donated a Type I fire engine to Indian Valley Fire and Rescue. On Aug. 4, three weeks after the Dixie Fire was first reported, the entire town of Greenville was burned, including the fire station and all fire suppression equipment. Indian Valley Fire and Rescue provides oversight for the fire stations in Greenville, Taylorsville, North Arm, and Genesee, all of which have been impacted by the devastating Dixie Fire.
A surplus 1994 Navistar fire engine was donated. The engine is fully stocked with hoses, extrication tools, power fans, a ladder, a generator, and other equipment, along with EMS supplies.
~ TMRF press release
Foundation Pulls Application to Develop Community Performing Arts Center
The nonprofit Tahoe Regional Arts Foundation announced mid-September it has terminated its application to develop a 22-acre parcel of land near the entrance to Northstar California Resort as The Stages at Northstar, a visual and performing arts center for the community. Despite having reached a sublease agreement with Vail Resorts for development and use of the property, community support and fundraising efforts aimed at getting the required environmental impact report underway lost momentum when the Covid-19 pandemic started. With the decision to rescind the project application, the nonprofit’s board also announced it will dissolve the foundation.
Estimated to cost $60 million to complete, once operational, The Stages was expected to generate approximately $15.7 million annually in economic output and create 100-plus new full or part-time jobs earning a total of over $5 million in annual worker compensation. The North Tahoe/Truckee region is home to more than 15 educational institutions and 30 arts-based organizations that historically have not had access to a venue where the community and visitors can see the arts flourish. The Stages at Northstar would have been the only theatrical complex of its kind in the two-state region.
~ TRAF press release
Rare Dragonfly Discovered After Almost a Century
The scientific community around Lake Tahoe is buzzing after an amazing discovery by the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science. The nonprofit organization was hosting a citizen science event in June in the Donner Lake area when participants discovered a spiny baskettail (Epitheca spinigera) dragonfly. The species was first discovered in the region over 100 years ago, but had not been seen here since.
The spiny baskettail dragonfly is relatively common across forested Canada and parts of the northern U.S., but in California it is known from only four sites, the other three of which are close to the Oregon border. Within California, the spiny baskettail was first spotted at Donner Lake in 1914 by Clarence Hamilton Kennedy. The species was never again seen anywhere around Tahoe despite considerable relocation efforts The accepted wisdom among California dragonfly enthusiasts and biologists was that this population was long gone, perhaps a victim of heavy recreational use at Donner Lake.
Kathy Biggs, who has written regional field guides on dragonflies and keeps careful track of odonate records in California, was thrilled by the rediscovery. “Never, in the last three decades of intensive California dragonfly studies, has any species ‘returned from the dead,’” she said.
On the day of the discovery, TINS was hosting its annual Odonate Blitz — an expedition into Tahoe habitats in search of dragonflies and damselflies. This year, Donner Lake was chosen specifically with spiny baskettails in mind. As the day was getting hotter and the team’s endurance was starting to fade, a lone dragonfly was spotted struggling on the surface of Donner Pond, mired in a slick of congealed pollen. The team was able to fish it out with a long stick and examine the insect closely, and much to everyone’s shock and amazement it was indeed a female spiny baskettail, the first one spotted south of Lassen County in 107 years.
Still reeling from the discovery, TINS Executive Director Will Richardson returned to the site eight days later and found another female roosting in the pines nearby, encouraging evidence that there surely must be a breeding population somewhere in the area. TINS will be scouring the Donner, Teichert, and Coldstream ponds starting in mid-May next year to find out where.
~ TINS press release
Redistricting Input Sessions Oct. 21 to 23
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission will hold public map input sessions on Oct. 21 to 23. Presentations will provide an opportunity to showcase submitters’ ideas, potential solutions, and specific boundaries for congressional, state senate, assembly, and/or board of equalization districts.
Oct. 21: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Oct. 22: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 23: 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Request for appointment sign-up: bit.ly/3Dl0tnt
Please fill out the form at the above link to submit an appointment request.
~ California Citizens Redistricting Commission newsletter
First of Its Kind Land Management Tool Launched To Help Prevent Catastrophic Wildfires
As millions of acres smolder and smoke billows across America, Vibrant Planet has launched its first application, called Land Tender, which catapults the country’s decades-old, paper-based land management system into the Cloud and provides land managers with the integrated, dynamic, high-resolution data and modeling they need to make more agile and informed decisions. With this new tool, land managers can plan, prioritize, and execute fire prevention and forest health projects in months rather than years, including thinning hazardous timber, clearing fuels from roadsides, and conducting prescribed burns.
With the 220,000 acre Caldor Fire still burning, Land Tender’s first partnership with the nonprofit Tahoe Fund and the California Tahoe Conservancy is a critical and timely initiative to help land managers and owners, fire districts, scientists, local NGOs, and other stakeholders update Lake Tahoe’s community wildfire protection and forest health plan for the entirety of the lake’s 500-square-mile watershed basin.
With Land Tender, parties across jurisdictions can collaborate and rapidly assess the current resilience of and risk to landscapes and communities, create and compare treatment scenarios at any scale, and make informed, ready-to-implement decisions in near real-time. This planning is done by utilizing high-resolution, three-dimensional, datasets (including satellite imagery and aerial light detection and ranging technology) coupled with infrastructure data to identify key inputs such as homes and utility infrastructure.
~ Land Tender press release
Glenshire Elementary Begins Cafeteria Food Waste Collection
Glenshire Elementary School students are piloting a new food waste collection program in their school cafeteria. Students are separating food scraps from their lunch waste using new sorting tables. Food waste materials are composted instead of going to landfills, preventing methane emissions and reducing climate change impacts.
Keep Truckee Green staff has worked closely with Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships and Tahoe Truckee Unified School District to bring this program to life. This pilot will inform future expansion of compost collection programs at all Truckee school sites in the district, and align goals to inspire young students to reduce their waste generation and make a positive impact in the community.
~ Town of Truckee newsletter
288 Workforce Units in 2021
On Oct. 1, Truckee/North Tahoe regional housing partners celebrated 288 new units of affordable housing for local workers with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Fiona Ma, California state treasurer, noted during her keynote address that agencies that used to not speak with one another regarding housing are now moving together in the same direction.
Tiena Johnson Hall, executive director of the California Housing Finance Agency, said, “I’ve never celebrated five affordable housing projects [at the same time],” pointing out the successful cooperation seen on a local level.
The event included a bus tour of five separate developments: Coldstream Commons, Frishman Hollow II, Hopkins Village, Meadow View Place, and Truckee Artist Lofts. The affordable housing units are all expected to be online by the end of 2021, if not already.
~ ME, AH
Public Services District Recognized
The Olympic Valley Public Service District has received the District of Distinction accreditation by the Special District Leadership Foundation for its sound fiscal management policies and practices in district operations. The district also received a renewal of the District Transparency Certificate of Excellence by SDLF in recognition of its outstanding efforts to promote transparency and good governance.
~ OVPSD press release