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Historic agreement on improving Lake Tahoe clarity signed by California and Nevada Governors

Release Date: 08/16/2011
Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, (415) 947-4149; perezsullivan.margot@epa.gov, (415) 947-4270, simms.mary@epa.gov


U.S. EPA approves collaborative bi-state plan

SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein today hosted the 15th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit, at which California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld signed a roadmap to return the lake to almost 100 feet of clarity within 65 years.

The water clarity of Lake Tahoe declined from a visibility level of 105 feet in 1967 to an all time low of 64 feet in 1997. Ten years of scientific study ascertained that fine particulate matter is the prime factor in diminished clarity at Lake Tahoe. The Clean Water Act allows states and U.S. EPA to develop a “diet” for impaired waters like Lake Tahoe to help them recover. This diet is called the Lake Tahoe TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load).

The TMDL represents a decade of collaborative effort between federal, state and local agencies and public stakeholders to better understand the pollutants and sources affecting the Lake’s clarity and to develop a cost-effective, workable solution for improvement.

“I am pleased that California and Nevada have demonstrated unprecedented levels of collaboration in crafting this agreement,” said Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. “Years of hard work and scientific study have paid off, paving the way for much-needed future success at Lake Tahoe.”

“Lake Tahoe provides enormous environmental and economic value to California and the nation,” said California Edmund G. Brown, Jr. “These benefits are directly related to the quality and clarity of the Lake. It is incumbent upon all of us to protect and enhance Lake Tahoe's clarity. This historic agreement will ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy Lake Tahoe's beauty and clarity.”

“The Total Maximum Daily Load offers a roadmap to improve Lake Tahoe’s clarity so future generations can enjoy this majestic lake,” said U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. “More than a decade of research went into this plan and I commend California, Nevada and the Environmental Protection Agency for coming together to implement it.”

“Common-sense regulations regarding water clarity at Lake Tahoe are critical to the health, preservation and restoration of this national treasure,” said U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. “They will also ensure that Lake Tahoe remains a valuable economic resource that is helping put Nevadans back to work.”

“I commend Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and the Lahontan Water Quality Control Board for developing a scientific plan to restore the clarity of Lake Tahoe. The years of hard work and collaboration have paid off,” said U.S. Senator Dean Heller of Nevada.

“Lake Tahoe is one of the largest, deepest, and clearest lakes in the world. Its shimmering blue waters, biologically diverse alpine setting, and remarkable water clarity are legendary,” said Jared Blumenfeld, U.S. EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “By establishing rigorous benchmarks and accountability, this plan ensures that Lake Tahoe’s environment and economy will thrive long into the future.”

The lake contributes significantly to the economies of California, Nevada and the United States. The communities and the economy of the Lake Tahoe Basin depend on the protection and restoration of its stunning beauty and diverse recreational opportunities in the region.

Scientific analysis demonstrates that restoring lake clarity is possible if pollutant load reductions can be achieved in each of the four primary sources of these pollutants: urban stormwater runoff, forest runoff, stream channel erosion and atmospheric deposition. The TMDL outlines measures to reduce each of these sources, with a focus on the urban stormwater runoff source, as it is both the greatest source and the best opportunity to control the pollutants. The TMDL calls for advanced and innovative controls to achieve the needed pollution reductions.

“The water quality goals have long been agreed to. The TMDL makes it possible to go forward by knowing how much pollutant loads need to be reduced, where those reductions can be found, and the rate of improvement that will follow,” said Dr. Geoffrey Schladow, Director of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

Achieving the load reductions outlined in the TMDL will be challenging. California’s Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection are working closely with local jurisdictions including the counties, departments of transportation, the City of South Lake Tahoe, and other stakeholders to reduce the amount of fine sediment and nutrients entering the lake. The two state agencies are also collaborating with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to ensure that the Regional Plan, which will soon be updated, supports the local government actions needed to implement the TMDL.

“The Basin’s private stakeholders welcome the opportunity to help implement science-based strategies to protect and restore Lake Tahoe’s famed water clarity. Since much of the pollutants of concern are the result of a 50 to 60-year-old built environment, one opportunity for meaningful load reduction is to rebuild many of these older structures incorporating state-of-the art green technologies,” said Lewis Feldman, a local land-use attorney for businesses throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin.

For more information about Clean Water Act TMDLs, please visit: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/lawsguidance/cwa/tmdl/

For more information about California’s TMDL for Lake Tahoe, please visit:
http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/lahontan/water_issues/programs/tmdl/lake_tahoe/index.shtml

For more information about Nevada’s TMDL for Lake Tahoe, please visit:
http://www.epa.gov/region9/water/tmdl/nevada.html and http://ndep.nv.gov/bwqp/tahoe.htm