Tapping Tahoe's resources

Ironically, members of a team working to preserve Lake Tahoe couldn't see the famously clear Sierra lake if they were standing on top of their building.

Located in an office off Fifth Street in Carson City, eight program managers from various state agencies coordinate Nevada's activities in trying to preserve Lake Tahoe, which has been losing more than a foot of transparency each year for 30 years.

"Nevada has had interagency efforts that consist of people working in their own agencies, then getting together periodically. We have that now, but they all go home to their own agencies," said Pam Wilcox, administrator of Nevada Division of State Lands, manager of the state's efforts at Tahoe and the person who assembled the resource team. "This is the first time I know of where we have people from different agencies working together physically as a team.

The Tahoe team is a result of Assembly Bill 285, passed by the 1999 Legislature, the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's environmental improvement program.

The program outlines $908 million worth of work to improve the environment of Lake Tahoe.

A draft of the program - which called for funding from Nevada, California, the federal government and Tahoe itself - was endorsed at the time of President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore's visit in the summer of 1997.

Nevada's commitment is $82 million, although allocations must be approved every two years by the Legislature.

The bill also authorized the creation of the Nevada-Tahoe Resource Team to make sure that money is efficiently spent.

Now, team members - coming from the departments of State Lands, Wildlife and Forestry - spend their days in the Carson City office planning for this summer's work.

Forest restoration near Spooner and Marlette lakes will happen this summer. Erosion-control and beach rehabilitation efforts are scheduled for Hidden Beach. Millions of dollars of work for enhancing wildlife habitat, improving hiking trails and doing upgrades at Sand Harbor are also planned.

The team handles the grants for Tahoe governments, such as general improvement districts, wanting to implement environmental projects. This summer Nevada will fund $1.5 million each for erosion control projects at Incline Village and Kingsbury Grade.

"Our goal is to have a pipeline of projects for the next seven to 10 years," said Jim Lawrence, team leader and employee of State Lands.

The eight team members are not the only state employees working on Tahoe issues. Each has a staff at other offices, and other departments, such as the Nevada Department of Transportation and Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, also are involved with Tahoe issues.

"This is a collaborative effort. I had not used that word so much until I came to this team," said Tim Rochelle, a team member from the Department of Forestry.

Jay Howard, the team's recreation specialist from State Parks, said crew members are eager for the summer when they can stop planning so much and start field work.

"There's nothing better than doing your part to save the environment," Howard said. "There is a pretty high level of excitement here."

The Nevada-Tahoe Resource Team is:

Jim Lawrence, team leader - Nevada Division of State Lands

Jenny Scanland, environmental scientist - Nevada Division of State Lands

Tim Rochelle, forester - Nevada Division of Forestry

Jay Howard, recreation specialist - Nevada Division of State Lands

Shawn Espinosa, wildlife and fisheries biologist - Nevada Division of Wildlife

Rick Day, land agent - Nevada Division of State Lands

Rex Harold, forester - Nevada Division of State Lands

Eric Matus, forester - Nevada Division of State Lands

Information about the team can be obtained by calling (775) 687-4735


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