WASHINGTON - A Senate panel has approved $10.5 million for environmental projects in 2001 aimed at cleaning up toxic chemicals and other contaminants at Lake Tahoe and surrounding areas.
Lake Tahoe is one of the nation's most prominent tourist destinations, but has come under increased ecological pressure in recent years from erosion, pollution, drought and insect infestation.
Legislation that would authorize $300 million in federal spending on a 10-year cleanup plan is lagging in both chambers.
In the meantime, a Senate subcommittee that sets spending for the Interior Department has allocated $10.5 million to Lake Tahoe in next year's Interior budget, triple what President Clinton had requested, and what the House included in its version of the bill.
''Purchasing and restoring environmentally sensitive lands to act as natural filters for the lake and closing old unmanageable roads which contribute to runoff will aid in this critical effort to save one of the world's most beautiful natural wonders,'' said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who sits on the committee and added the funding.
Of the amount placed in the Interior bill, $4 million is earmarked to buy sensitive land in the Tahoe Basin, $5.75 million would be spent on controlling erosion and managing vegetation, and $750,000 is for road maintenance. California and Nevada lawmakers brought Clinton and Vice President Al Gore to Lake Tahoe in 1997 for an environmental summit. Subsequently, Clinton requested about $50 million in federal spending on cleanup efforts over the following two years.
But this year, Clinton asked for just $3.5 million - not nearly enough, according to Reid and others pushing to pass the 10-year Lake Tahoe Restoration Act.
The Interior bill now goes to the full Appropriations Committee, then to the Senate floor, and finally to conference committee to be reconciled with the House version.
The Interior bill contains several other Nevada earmarks, including:
-$300,000 for the Lake Mead/Mohave Environmental Research Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to conduct research on Lake Mead watersheds.
-$50,000 to protect ancient American Indian petroglyphs in Sloan, about 20 miles south of Las Vegas.
-$699,000 to restore native Lahontan Cutthroat Trout along the Walker and Truckee rivers.
-$124,000 to compensate the Walker River Paiute Indian Reservation for reduced water levels at Weber Dam because of unsafe dam conditions.
-$112,000 for the Pyramid Lake water rights settlement.
-$30,000 to implement a settlement agreement on water storage and use along the Truckee River.