Low-to-No Snow is in Tahoe’s Future
A study released in November shows that anthropogenic (or human-caused) climate change is decreasing seasonal snowpack across the planet. The report shows particular emphasis on the western United States and the trickle-down effects of such snow loss. As stated in the study, titled A Low-to-No Snow Future and its Impacts on Water Resources in the Western United States, “snow water equivalent declines of ~25% are expected by 2050.”
Complete snow disappearance in the western U.S. doesn’t have a clear sunset, though “model projections combined with a new low-to-no snow definition suggest [approximately] 35 to 60 years before low-to-no snow becomes persistent if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated.”
Such a trajectory, the authors write, will be difficult to shift, though certain adaptation strategies can provide resilience to low-to-no-snow conditions. “Federal investments offer a timely opportunity to address these vulnerabilities,” the study states, “but they require a concerted portfolio of activities that cross historically siloed physical and disciplinary boundaries.”
Pacific Bell Ordered to Remove 8 Miles of Lead-Leaching Abandoned Telecom Lines
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE
Eight miles of leaded cable weighing an approximated 150,000 pounds was abandoned at the bottom of Lake Tahoe decades ago by AT&T’s Pacific Bell Telephone Company. Below the Blue, a local nonprofit that is dedicated to removing foreign debris and investigating pollution problems, brought attention to the cable in 2020, and has been working diligently with PacBell’s parent company to have the cable removed ever since. Read Moonshine Ink’s reporting on the situation, The Cables Leaking Lead in Lake Tahoe.
Below the Blue is supportive of the recent settlement approved in federal court between the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and Pacific Bell. As part of the agreement, AT&T has agreed to remove this cable by 2022, as well as cover all costs for permitting and proper disposal.
“We are committed to preserving one of the most scenic freshwater lakes in the Sierra Nevada,” AT&T’s Jim Greer shared with the Ink in a statement. “We have agreed to remove these cables because they are no longer in use; however, we dispute any notion that they were a source of pollution. We are disappointed to see the [CSPA] take such an adversarial posture after we have agreed to work with them to remove these cables.”
Greer also noted that AT&T “hired an expert firm to collect water samples both close to and far from the cables and the sampling did not detect any release of lead into Lake Tahoe.” Moonshine requested that the report be shared, but received no response.
According to Below the Blue, testing has confirmed the presence of lead. At the time of placement of the cables, long-term impacts of such metals underwater was not well understood.
~ ME, AH
Case Against Martis Valley Moves Forward
Mountain Area Preservation, Sierra Watch, and the League to Save Lake Tahoe have been seeking to overturn approvals for subdivisions on the northern rim of the Tahoe Basin and to secure responsible planning for the region. The three organizations sent a press release stating that in their case against Martis Valley West development, the Third District Court of Appeals has tentatively scheduled oral arguments in approvals Dec. 17 at 9:30 a.m.
The hearing will likely be virtual, and more details will be shared by the groups, including how to watch online, as information is available.
~ MAP, Sierra Watch press releases
Divers Remove 18,215 Pounds of Trash From Lake Tahoe
Despite a summer dive season filled with challenges, the Clean Up The Lake SCUBA dive team that embarked on the effort to clean up Lake Tahoe is now well past the halfway point, having reached the West Shore. The team has covered over 43.5 miles of shoreline since the effort began at Edgewood on the South Shore on May 14, and is bracing for a cold winter of diving with just over 28 miles to go until it reaches the finish line.
Over the past six months, divers have recovered 21,091 pieces of trash, bringing the total weight removed to 18,215 pounds. Clean Up The Lake intends to collaborate with scientific institutions and environmental consultants to study the submerged litter to develop a better understanding of its impact on Lake Tahoe.
Divers will continue amassing trash throughout the winter as conditions allow, and expect to complete the full effort in early 2022, weather and conditions permitting.
The project was funded by contributions raised by the Tahoe Fund from more than 135 businesses and people who donated to the cause, including an initial $100,000 match offered by Tahoe Blue Vodka. Additional funding support came from Vail Resorts, the Nevada Division of State Lands Lake Tahoe License Plate program, and other grant-giving foundations.
Learn more about the project at tahoefund.org.
~ Tahoe Fund, Tahoe Blue Vodka, Clean Up The Lake, and Nevada Division of State Lands press release
Efforts Continue to Remove Racial Slur Against Indigenous Women
In response to Palisades Tahoe’s name change, announced in mid-September, Placer County is also in the process of changing the names of public roads, county committees, and a park that still use the word “squaw.”
At the county’s Dec. 14 board of supervisors meeting, members will hear a staff recommendation and then vote on whether or not to change the names of Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Committee and Squaw Valley Design Review Committee to Olympic Valley MAC and Olympic Valley DRC.
Simultaneously being addressed are three public road names within Olympic Valley the county is seeking to change: Squaw Valley Road, Squaw Peak Road, and Squaw Peak Way. The name Olympic Valley Road will likely replace Squaw Valley Road.
“For Squaw Peak Road and Squaw Peak Way, we’ve got a few ideas that are actually still being vetted by our engineering and survey department,” said Lindsay Romack, management analyst with the Placer Tahoe CEO office and Town of Truckee council member. “We have been talking with the Washoe Tribe and are reaching out to give them an opportunity to provide input.”
The community at large will be able to provide input as well. Placer released an online-only survey in early December to solicit ideas from residents for the aforementioned roads and Squaw Valley Park name changes. Find the survey at placer.ca.gov/3462/north-lake-tahoe.
The naming process will go through the county planning commission with the ultimate decision falling on the board of supervisors. There’s no expected date for approval at this time; Romack said staff will review community feedback and go from there. A similar street name change occurred in October 2020, when the board voted to change the Kings Beach street name “Coon Street” to Raccoon Street.
At a Nov. 15 joint North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council and SVMAC meeting, Romack said public feedback was generally positive — “Not any other big outspoken attitudes.”
Romack also mentioned that she’s heard of private businesses considering their own name changes, though their timelines vary. Regarding the federally named geographic sites like Squaw Creek and Squaw Peak, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names will be deciding. Read more about that process, as well as what led up to the official name change, in The Journey to Remove ‘Squaw’ From Tahoe’s Washoe Lands.
“Once the board of supervisors renames the roads, there are automatic things that are going to kick into gear, and people will have to be aware who live on those roads,” Romack said. “You’ll have to make changes on various documents. It will be a process, we understand, for people who are going to be directly affected. The county is happy to provide insight and direction.”
Environmental Review Begins for Dollar Creek Crossing
Another affordable housing project on the horizon, Dollar Creek Crossing at 3205 and 3225 North Lake Blvd. in Tahoe City, has reached a significant milestone: the start of the environmental review process, which could include a full Environmental Impact Report.
In regard to the timeline of the review process, Shawna Purvines, deputy director of Placer County’s community development resource agency, told Moonshine Ink, “Once we finalize the project description, and we’re getting pretty close, it really depends on the level of environmental review necessary. If we end up doing a full Environmental Impact Report, we’ll take about a year to 18 months to complete. But at this point, until we have a project description, we can’t determine what level of environmental review will be necessary.”
Whether or not a full EIR will need to be conducted is determined by the level of impacts the project will create. County staff is working with Tahoe firm Nichols Consulting Engineers for the review, with NCE currently looking over project reports and studies while determining information and data needs. Completing the environmental review will meet California Environmental Quality Act, National Environmental Protection Act, and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency requirements. Purvines said the environmental review will take a few months to complete.
At an Oct. 26 board of supervisors meeting and a Nov. 15 North Tahoe Regional Advisory Committee and Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Committee meeting, Purvines presented the latest changes to the project itself — an updated draft site plan, reflecting public comments associated with concerns over density, income levels, and traffic. What was originally anticipated to house 170 to 204 residential units is now being studied by county staff at a maximum of 150 units: 60 for-sale homes and 90 rental apartments.
“We will analyze up to 150 units, but we’re not anticipating that to be the full buildout,” Purvines said. “We believe it’ll be something less.”
Dollar Creek Crossing is designated for those in the local workforce earning an income ranging from 30% ($19,050 for a one-person household) to 220% of Area Median Income.
The full staff report for the Dollar Creek update can be found online at placer.ca.gov/documentcenter/view/55953/03a.
Annual ‘Roadkill’ Report Identifies Hot Spots and Paths Forward
In the past five years, collisions between wildlife and vehicles cost California at least $1 billion and potentially up to $2 billion, according to estimates in an annual report by the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis.
The report presents an overview of collisions with large and small animals — from bighorn sheep, deer, and bears to squirrels, birds, and lizards. The Road Ecology Center mapped about 15,000 miles of state highways to identify stretches of highway where wildlife-vehicle collisions, or WVCs, are most likely to occur.
The report is based on more than 44,000 California Highway Patrol traffic incidents involving large wildlife and more than 65,000 observations reported to the web app California Roadkill Observation System, or CROS, between 2009 and 2020. Anyone in California can collect roadkill data using the app.
Key hot spots include the Sacramento/Placerville area, specifically along Interstate 80, US Route 50, and State Route 49 in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The report highlights mountain lions, black bears, and Pacific newts as cases where the problem is especially severe in certain places.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported on Nov. 10 that an endangered Gray Wolf, OR93, was found dead near Interstate 5 close to the town of Lebec, California. Following a full investigation and necropsy, the CDFW determined that the wolf died from trauma consistent with vehicular strike. Before his demise, the rare young male wolf was documented traveling the farthest south in California, traveling to many counties including Nevada, Placer, and El Dorado, since wolves returned to the state, which is historically wolf habitat. The last documented wolf that far south was captured in San Bernardino County in 1922.
The roadkill report notes that the passing of Senate Bill 1 provided transportation agencies with an increase of more than $5 billion per year to protect driver safety and the environment. The authors encourage legislation that requires better and expanded infrastructure to allow for wildlife passage. The report identifies critical highway segments where the value of reducing conflicts between vehicles and animals would exceed the cost of building fencing. It estimates that treating 1,275 miles of such segments would cost around $175 million.
The authors suggest such improvements be paid through transportation funds rather than more limited funding streams, and urge these actions occur within a time frame that can prevent local extinctions and help restore impacted wildlife populations.
~ UC Davis, CDFW press releases
Nonprofit Coalition Raises Funds to Protect Canyon Springs
Canyon Springs, 290 acres of open space in Eastern Truckee, will be permanently protected thanks to an outpouring of support for the joint campaign to permanently protect the area by Mountain Area Preservation, the Truckee Donner Land Trust, SOS Glenshire, and the Martis Fund. Contributions amassed the $11.6 million-plus purchase price nearly a month early, with MAP celebrating the victory its Nov. 22 newsletter.
Everyone who donated to this campaign will be recognized on a trailhead kiosk on the property. There’s still time to help out (and have your name added to the on-site list). According to the MAP update, the land trust must raise additional funds for the ongoing stewardship of Canyon Springs to continue to care for the property in perpetuity to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy; build and care for trails and trailheads to give access to the property; perform forest health projects as needed to ensure the property is resilient in the face of a changing climate and catastrophic wildfires; and restore wildlife habitat and wetlands, both of which are critical components of this property.
~ MAP press release
Tahoe Fund Issues Call for 2022 Projects
As an organization focused on impactful changes in the Lake Tahoe Basin, the Tahoe Fund is once again opening its annual call for projects. Tahoe Fund has funded more than 60 environmental projects and secured over $50 million in public funding in the past decade.
With the ever-increasing threat of wildfire in the West, the Tahoe Fund has identified forest health as its number one priority. Specifically, it looks to support projects that will increase the pace and scale of forest restoration. Other focus areas include improving lake clarity, expanding sustainable recreation, innovative solutions to transportation challenges, and creating more stewards of Lake Tahoe. Public agencies and nonprofits are invited to submit proposals for projects that require anywhere from $5,000 to $1 million in funding. Ones with the ability to leverage additional funding from Tahoe Fund support will be prioritized. An example of a current project is the Caldor Trails Restoration Fund, which was launched Nov. 15 and will support the rebuilding of South Lake trails that were damaged or destroyed during the Caldor Fire.
Projects submissions are due by Jan. 31, 2022. Project guidelines and the request for projects submission form can be found online at tahoefund.org/our-projects/submit-a-project.
~ Tahoe Fund press release
Recreation Working Group to Tackle Property Rights, Recreation Concerns
Nevada County District 5 Supervisor Hardy Bullock has directed county staff to create a working group addressing recreation access and property rights in the Hirschdale community east and northeast of Truckee. Reports of negative interactions between users of the Tahoe-Pyramid Trail and Truckee River and property owners have come to light over the last 18 months, compelling Bullock to host a community listening session at the end of September. View the recording at bit.ly/3D4rX0h.
Trisha Tillotson, community development agency director with Nevada County, is heading up the newly created Hirschdale Recreation Workgroup, comprising recreational group representatives and owners of properties adjacent to the Hirschdale Road bridge. The stakeholders are brainstorming potential short- and long-term solutions for ongoing recreation along Hirschdale Road while protecting property rights.
“Their suggestions will be incorporated into a memo in January which will help inform a recreation master plan that Nevada County is considering starting in 2022,” shared Tillotson with Moonshine.
New “No Parking” signs have been installed next to private property along Nevada County roads and the Truckee River.
Meeks Bay Fire Annexation Into North Tahoe Fire Begins
EL DORADO COUNTY
The process of annexing the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District into the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, decided at the September meeting of the Meeks Bay Fire Department, has begun. El Dorado County’s Local Agency Formation Commission is currently working with both departments on the annexation.