Tahoe funds would go toward bistate park, erosion control

Nevada lawmakers were asked Tuesday to earmark $3 million in bond revenues to pay for the first phase of what's envisioned as a 725-acre park near casinos at the California-Nevada line on Lake Tahoe's south shore.

The park money is included in a $9 million bond issue, detailed in SB55, that represents a final installment on Nevada's share of a major Tahoe environmental improvement program, launched in 1997 by then-President Clinton.

In discussing SB55, state Lands Division Administrator Pam Wilcox told the Senate Finance Committee that an announcement will be made this summer on how much money, beyond the initial $900 million from various sources, will be needed to continue the environmental improvement program through 2016.

Wilcox also said that only about $7 million of the initial environmental improvement funding, which has come from federal, California, Nevada, local government and private sources, has been used so far on recreation projects.

The lands division asked lawmakers to earmark the $3 million in bond revenues for the park, located on the old Van Sickle ranch, after learning that park developers were ready to start first-phase construction. Most of the money would come from funding originally intended for erosion control.

The park, to be located in both Nevada and California, would provide hiking trails, picnic areas, a multi-use paved bike trail, a corral, campground and parking. The California side would host a visitor center, and access to the historic Van Sickle cabin and to the Nevada side. The park also would provide a connecting route with the Tahoe Rim Trail.

"The main focus of the park is trail hiking," said Nevada Parks Division Administrator Dave Morrow.

Planning for the park started in 2000. In 1988, Jack Van Sickle donated 542 acres to Nevada state parks with a condition that it not house any commercial skiing or equestrian facilities. The division acquired another 28 acres and the California Tahoe Conservancy has purchased about 155 acres across the state line.

The overall $900 million environmental improvement effort has focused mainly on erosion control and fire prevention. The total includes about $100 million from the private sector for erosion control at homes and businesses. Nevada's share has amounted to $82 million.

Erosion is thought to be the prime culprit in Lake Tahoe's declining clarity. Recently, land regulators at Tahoe have shifted focus to fire prevention as a top priority, as the charred remains of wildfires often result in soil damage and more erosion.


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