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Lake Tahoe boating season successful; decontaminations double from 2009

Regional officials are touting the effectiveness of a comprehensive watercraft inspection program in preventing the introduction this year of aquatic invasive species into the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe.

Watercraft inspectors managed by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, in cooperation with Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, performed more than 8,000 boat inspections during the 2010 boating season, officials revealed this week, and a total of 19,000 watercraft launches occurred with Tahoe-specific inspection seals.

Of those numbers, 11 watercraft containing aquatic invasive species were intercepted and decontaminated, officials confirmed

Official: Increase in algae on Lake Tahoe may not indicate long-term trend

Despite the appearance of more algae attached to submerged rocks in the near-shore areas of Lake Tahoe, scientists are reluctant to ascribe the apparent increase to actual population growth.

Scott Hackley, staff research associate at TERC and principal author of the “Lake Tahoe Water Quality Investigations,” said he has heard people who frequent the near-shore area report an increase in periphyton (a mixture of algae and other bacteria) growth this year, but said the algal population fluctuates year to year based on “an interaction of factors.”

“I would caution those that rely on anecdotal or visual evidence,” he said. “We have been compiling data since the 1980s. We are continuing to collect data and we will look to identify trends or dramatic shifts over a sustained period of time.”

Human beings and beavers can peacefully co-exist

Human beings and beavers can peacefully co-exist, Tahoe wildlife advocates said during a recent community forum, and Placer County officials agreed, vowing to explore alternatives to hunting and killing the animals.

Co-existence is especially practical since the recent advent of many Tahoe-based water flow control devices and techniques which successfully manage flooding hazards and damage to property associated with beavers and their dam building.

Water flow control devices, culvert protection fences, tree fencing and the use of cayenne pepper on tree trunks are some of the many management techniques used nationwide as a means of preventing the nuisance and hazards associated with beaver ponds.

Environmentalists remove aquatic weeds from Emerald Bay

Environmentalists are declaring victory after a population-growth control technique successfully eradicated most, if not all, remnants of an invasive aquatic plant from part of the floor of Emerald Bay near Swim Beach. Using a similar technique to kill invasive Asian clams, a partnership of local environmental agencies installed large swathes of bottom barriers to curtail the growth of Eurasian watermilfoil in Lake Tahoe.

In June, a partnership including Tahoe Resource Conservation District, California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency placed more than 8,500 square feet of bottom barriers, according to Kim Boyd, Invasive Species manager at the conservation district.

Truckee River flows through new channel east of Sparks

By Jeff DeLong • jdelong@rgj.com • December 3, 2009

On Wednesday, crews diverted the river's waters from the human-built, straight-shot "ditch" where they have flowed for decades into a new, more natural meandering channel mirroring nature's design.

"We're actually forcing it over today," said Mickey Hazelwood, Truckee River project director for the Nature Conservancy, which is heading up the restoration project.

"We're trying to make the Truckee what it once was," Hazelwood said.

Since July, heavy equipment has been at work along a more than milelong section of the river near the former site of the Mustang Ranch, Nevada's first licensed bordello.

Much of the lower Truckee was straightened and channelized decades ago during federal flood control projects or for agriculture. The result was a degraded river system vulnerable to erosion and unsuitable for fish and wildlife.

The restored stretch of river includes natural meanders where flood waters can slow and spread naturally over the floodplain, nourishing the land and improving fish and wildlife habitat.

Diversion of the river into its new channel is a pivotal point for a $7.8 million project that will continue for several years as native vegetation is nurtured by experts.

"It's always a milestone event getting the flows into that new, sinuous channel," Hazelwood said. "That's a river, not a ditch. It looks more like the Truckee River used to look."

The Mustang restoration, along with similar improvements completed, under way or planned along the lower Truckee, are welcome and needed, said Dan Mosley, water quality manager for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

"They could do this all the way down to Pyramid Lake, and it would be real good, especially for the fish," Mosley said.

The Mustang restoration follows similar projects completed downstream at the historic McCarran Ranch and further down river at the 102 Ranch. A similar project targeted the site of an old mobile home park in Lockwood, just east of Sparks.

Nearly 9 miles of the lower Truckee have been restored, Hazelwood said. Experts are in the process of figuring out how much more work needs to be done along a river where 50 miles have been "highly impacted" by past human actions, Hazelwood said.

"We need to do more," he said. "I can tell you we have a lot more work to do to call this a long-term success."

(due to the new policy by RGJ of pulling internet articles into archives within two weeks of printing, this article is shown in entirety.)

Sparks: Pioneer Dam effort on hold, cost up $212,000

More than $212,000 in unanticipated costs tied to rebuilding Pioneer Dam is prompting tongue-lashings at both Sparks city administrators and the federal government.
BY DAVID JACOBS • djacobs@rgj.com • November 27, 2009

The extra funding is needed because Sparks did not obtain all of the permits from the federal government before the city awarded a construction contract earlier this year, officials said. Now with winter arriving, the project is being mothballed.

"The difficulty I have is that we are stewards of taxpayers' money," Councilman Ron Schmitt said. "Now with errors on the staff's part, we have a $212,000 deficiency."

Sparks Public Works Director Wayne Seidel told city leaders that Sparks had awarded the Pioneer Dam contract in anticipation of the permits being issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We learned a lesson as far as don't count your chickens before they hatch," Seidel told the city council in a briefing this week.

He had anticipated support from the fish and wildlife service. "It improves fish passage, and that structure is old. There are efficiencies that we are gaining by doing the project," he said.

Mayor Geno Martini blames the Fish and Wildlife Service. He traced it back to the city's whitewater park, also on the Truckee River, that opened last spring. The agency said the whitewater park at Rock Park was inconsistent with long-term goals to restore the Truckee River and return threatened fish to its waters.

"This is a personal vendetta against the city of Sparks with U.S. Fish and (Wildlife) because they didn't want the whitewater park, and we finally got it through," Martini told city leaders this week. "They never wanted that water park, and this is paybacks. I'm thoroughly convinced of that.

"Through a normal process, this permit would have been issued, and it should have been issued, and they held it up on purpose, put it on somebody's desk, and it went to the bottom of the pile," Martini said of the Pioneer Dam project. "That's what's aggravated me more than anything...They held it up knowing full well that we needed to do this."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday disputed the mayor's claims. "We don't have a personal vendetta against the city," said Bob Williams, the federal agency's Nevada state supervisor. "I view the statement of the mayor as one of those standing for the people and wanting to make a statement," Williams said. "We have no personal vendetta. We will continue to work with the city and the (Army) Corps of Engineers and permit a project that is good for fish and good for the city."

The Pioneer Dam dispute is not linked to the whitewater park "other than the consultation process is the same" with permits required for both, Williams said.

"It's the same people going through the same process, and one might say that they (Sparks) should have known what we were going to need...They didn't learn from the first (whitewater park) lesson. Hopefully, they'll learn from this one."

"We have tried to express to the city, not only through the whitewater park, but also the Pioneer (dam) project, our general concern for in-river work that would be adverse to our recovery program for Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui-ui," Williams said. "That is our responsibility under the endangered species act, to try to maintain and support habitat that would support these two federally endangered species."

The agency is working with the Corps of Engineers in an issuing a biological opinion on the Pioneer Dam project.

"We are still waiting for an adequate mitigation plan from the city that the Corps would use to show how this project is going to minimize and mitigate the in-river work that could potentially be adverse to Lahontan cutthroat trout," Williams said.

The $212,020 approved this week to Peavine Construction will pay costs to mothball the Pioneer Dam project until next summer, if permits are granted. Money will come from what was described to City Council as "opportunity funds." They originate from storm-drain funding obtained from ratepayers.

"A new term," said Schmitt, a council member since 2001. "I've never heard of 'opportunity funds.' We've got a slush fund of opportunities. I've got a whole bunch of opportunities to use that money, but I've never been told we have that slush fund."

"...If we know the federal government has issues, we need to be a little more diligent to make sure we don't create the mistakes," Schmitt said .

He joined council members Ron Smith, Julia Ratti and Mike Carrigan in supporting the additional funds for Pioneer Dam.

"I'm going to approve it because you put a contractor in a bad position," Schmitt said. "I would guess to say that if a contractor went out there and did a job without a permit, we would probably be pretty hard on that contractor. Would we not?"

Invasive Mussels Could be Costly to Tahoe Economy

Jun 24, 2009

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Lake Tahoe's economy could lose millions in taxes and tourism revenue if invasive mussels become established in the lake's famed blue waters, according to a new report.

The report prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that the Tahoe economy could suffer an annual loss of $22 million because of lost tourism, declining property values and maintenance costs associated with the mollusks, according to a Reno Gazette-Journal story published Wednesday.

"This is just so frightening," said Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and chairman of Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's policy board. The agency was scheduled to discuss the report's findings this week.

Quagga mussels first turned up in Lake Mead in early 2007 and have spread to other waters in southern Nevada and California. Zebra mussels were discovered in a reservoir about 250 miles from Tahoe in January 2008.

The mussels have wildlife officials around the country on alert because once they become entrenched, they multiple quickly and there's no way to get rid of them.

Experts said that if the mollusks establish themselves, they could forever alter Lake Tahoe's sensitive ecosystem, clog water intakes, encrust boats and docks and cover now-pristine beaches with sharp, smelly shells. Biaggi also said they could eventually spread down the Truckee River to Pyramid Lake north of Reno.

Lake Tahoe regulators instituted boat inspections for the mussels last summer, including mandatory checks for vessels from other areas. When boats exit the lake, a seal is fixed between the boat and trailer. If the seal is intact when the boat launches again, no new inspection is required.

Regulators imposed a fee-based program this June to ensure that inspections continue. Over the Memorial Day weekend, inspectors decontaminated six boats for invasive mussels.

Biaggi said stopping the mollusks is the agency's second priority for protecting the lake that straddles the Nevada-California line, topped only by the prevention of catastrophic wildfires.

"Anytime you get something that can't be undone, that rises to a higher level," said Phil Brozek, senior project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. "I've heard people say it's the most important issue, maybe because it's irreparable."

For entire article, please view website.

$400K invasive species program to begin in mid-March

Saturday, February 21, 2009
The Associated Press

RENO, Nev. — Scientists are preparing to wage an all-out war against another threat to Lake Tahoe's famed pure waters: Asian clams.

The quarter-sized critters have turned up in numerous locations along Tahoe's southeast shore and prompted concern that they could pave the way for even more destructive invasive species such as quagga or zebra mussels. Scuba divers will be used in a $400,000 project designed to test ways to remove the clams. The effort, jointly funded by the federal government, Nevada and California, is scheduled to begin in mid-March.

"This needs to be done. We have to get our hands around the Asian clam problem," Tahoe Regional Planning Agency spokesman Dennis Oliver told the Reno Gazette-Journal. Native to Japan, China and Korea, the clams first turned up in the U.S. in the 1930s and at Tahoe in 2001.

The clams are suspected of releasing nutrients that fueled an algae bloom around Marla Bay on Tahoe's east s hore last summer. Algae growth threatens to turn Tahoe's blue waters green. But scientists are more concerned that the clams could promote an invasion by quagga or zebra mussels - mollusks already spreading across lakes and reservoirs across much of the U.S.

Decaying clam shells could boost calcium levels that permit mussels to become established, scientists say, and trigger major problems in the lake's ecosystem. Mussels could clog water intakes, attach to docks, litter pristine beaches and spread down the Truckee River, the Reno area's major water source, scientists say.

Those fears make the Asian clam a "serious threat" that can't be ignored, said Steve Chilton, aquatic invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For entire article, please visit website.

Former Nevada Brothel Site Targeted for River Project

Feb 14, 2009

RENO (AP) - A panel of local officials has approved a $7.2 million river restoration project at the former site of the infamous Mustang Ranch brothel east of Reno.

The Flood Project Coordinating Committee took the action Friday in its push to complete a long-awaited Truckee River flood control project.

Plans call for the river ecosystem to be restored to a natural condition on the land where the Mustang Ranch was located.

Improvements will include cutting new meanders into the river channel. When finished, the restored site will help floodwaters spread naturally over the landscape, improving fish habitat and boosting water quality.

The area is the site of Nevada's first legalized brothel, founded by Joe Conforte in 1971 and operated until 1999 when the federal government seized it after guilty verdicts against its parent companies and manager in a federal fraud and racketeering trial.

For entire article, please visit website below.

Lower Truckee River Bioassessment Symposium - 2009. #3

NDEP presents: the LTR Bioassessment Symposium, held at DRI on January 5-6, 2009. Click on title for expanded view; please find the last Day One power points and first Day Two power point presentations attached and available for download below, including those by Condon, Henderson, Swanson on Cottonwoods, Flood Project, and Lotic Assessments respectively.

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