Lake Tahoe Summit Gets It: Healthy Ecosystem Equals Healthy Economy

LAKE TAHOE, Nevada, August 17, 2010 (ENS) – “Protecting Lake Tahoe is the right thing to do environmentally and economically,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said today as he hosted this year’s annual Lake Tahoe Summit.

Several hundred people gathered in brilliant sunshine at Sand Harbor State Park’s Shakespeare Festival Amphitheater to collaborate on ways to improve the lake’s world famous clarity and stimulate the economy of this resort community on the Nevada-California border.

“The health of our beloved lake is not Nevada’s concern alone. It’s the nation’s concern. It’s the world’s concern,” said Reid. “That’s because Lake Tahoe is an international treasure.”

In 1997, Reid organized the first Lake Tahoe summit, attended by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, to promote awareness of the Tahoe basin’s fragile ecosystem.

Lake Tahoe (Photo by Peggy Courtney)

The summits led to the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2000, a $424 million appropriations measure to improve the lake’s clarity and the environment of the forest and basin.

“Right now,” said Reid, “we’re working to renew that legislation, which will bring in another $415 million and continue the work on invasive species, improving water clarity and helping to prevent the possible devastation from wildfires.”

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, introduced to the Tahoe Summit audience a scientist who is developing innovative methods to fight invasive species threatening Lake Tahoe’s ecology.

She convened a roundtable discussion among scientists, business owners and elected officials to try to develop a private-public partnership to resolve some of the most pressing Lake Tahoe issues – among them invasive Asian clams.

The size of a fingernail and sharp as razors, Asian clams have created a pocket of infestation stretching from Zephyr Point to the south shore of Lake Tahoe.

“They would be three and a half miles long if they were laid end to end,” Feinstein said. “But we learned from Dr. Sudeep Chandra from the University of Nevada that a control strategy will work. This shows we can solve the problem.”

Dr. Sudeep Chandra doing research on Lake Tahoe (Photo courtesy UNR)

Chandra explained that using “a very simple black tarp barrier at the bottom of the lake,” researchers have studied a smaller plot and a larger plot in the southeastern part of the lake.

“And we’re finding out that you can suffocate clams within 28 days and pretty much remove them from certain areas of the lake,” Chandra said. “We did let the senator know that it’s still in the pilot testing phase. It’s very simple technology, but we’re also affecting the native biodiversity. So, we’re currently trying to see what the recovery of the native biodiversity is in those spots.”

Senator Feinstein said she was impressed by the depth of the reports she had received from more than 50 people involved with improving Lake Tahoe, from fighting invasive species to water clarity issues to forest health.

Twenty-two miles long and 12 miles wide, Lake Tahoe is the highest lake of its size in the United States and the largest alpine lake in North America. There are 63 tributaries draining into the lake with only one outlet – at the Truckee River.

Lake Tahoe’s economy is based on attracting visitors to enjoy warm, dry weather in summer and great snow conditions in winter, sparkling blue water, and resorts and towns to use as bases for skiing, hiking, biking, sailing, canoeing, shopping, dining and gaming. All that fun depends on a healthy environment.

Reid asked Trish Kelly of the Sacramento firm Applied Development Economics to explain the essential interplay of Lake Tahoe’s triple bottom line – the environment, economy and sociology.

Kelly is one of the organizers of the Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan – an unprecedented collaborative effort to consider the basin as one economic region for the stimulation of economic growth.

“We’ve presented the Lake Tahoe Prosperity Plan to federal and state officials, and they agree the plan is ambitious but achievable,” Kelly said. The bi-state regional economic plan was initiated in January and is scheduled to complete the recommended implementation strategy in September.

Addressing the crowd, Reid quoted author Mark Twain who once described Lake Tahoe as “the fairest picture the whole Earth affords.”

Reid said the annual Lake Tahoe summits have been productive because they have developed model public-private partnerships bringing together environmentalists, business leaders, and state and federal agencies.

“And with them all focused on the same goal,” said Reid, “that is, making sure northern Nevada, the West, the nation and the world enjoy a lake as fair as the one Twain saw – the results will paint a picture just as inspiring.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.