Sunday 20 August 2017
 

Lake Clarity

Green substrate; Source: M. Sweeney, Tahoe Project

The causes of Lake Tahoe’s clarity decline have been identified as fine sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus. Fine sediment, the greatest contributor to clarity decline, travels to the Lake primarily via stormwater from urban areas.

 

Cost-Effective Steps to a Clear Lake Tahoe, Larsen (2)

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Bob Larsen: Cost-Effective Steps to a Clear Lake Tahoe (2) 8:33

 

 

Roadways, in particular the state highway system and some of the other high traffic roadways, are a disproportionate source of the ultra-fine particles that are causing the decline in Lake Tahoe clarity. In this interview Bob Larsen, Staff Scientist at the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, talks about the central question for today’s road managers in the Lake Tahoe Basin, “How can we better manage roads to reduce the amount of traction abrasives and roadway products that actually make their way into the stormwater and into Lake Tahoe?”

 

 

photo: Maintaining and operating roads is a big step toward water clarity. Emerald Bay Moraine © 2013 Michelle Sweeney

 

Cost-Effective Steps to a Clear Lake Tahoe, Larsen (3)

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Bob Larsen: Cost-Effective Steps to a Clear Lake Tahoe (3) 8:08

 

 

On a dollar for dollar basis annual operations and maintenance activities are more cost-effective at reducing pollutant loading and are cheaper than large-scale capital improvement projects, otherwise known as infrastructure projects. In this interview Bob Larsen, Staff Scientist at the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board points out that, “the challenge that we have right now is to figure out how we can help local government do the more cost-effective operations and maintenance activities that are needed to improve water quality.” Funds for capital improvement projects have historically been easier to secure in the Tahoe Basin than have been funds for ongoing operations and maintenance. This situation is not unique to Tahoe, jurisdictions across the country are seeking revenue sources to meet the need for operation and maintenance of existing infrastructure.

 

 

photo: Maintaining and operating roads is a big step toward water clarity. Emerald Bay Moraine © 2013 Michelle Sweeney

   

Cost-Effective Steps to a Clear Lake Tahoe, Larsen (4)

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Bob Larsen: Cost-Effective Steps to a Clear Lake Tahoe (4) 6:13

 

 

“We all depend on the benefits of transportation infrastructure so we all have a role to play in mitigating the impact of that infrastructure on water quality,” says Bob Larsen, Staff Scientist at the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. He says, “Everybody who is living in and enjoying this Tahoe basin has the responsibility to deal with the problems that result from the infrastructure we all use. We all need to be part of the solution.” 

 

 

photo: Maintaining and operating roads is a big step toward water clarity. Emerald Bay Moraine © 2013 Michelle Sweeney

 

Cost-Effective Steps to a Clear Lake Tahoe, Larsen (5)

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Bob Larsen: Cost-Effective Steps to a Clear Lake Tahoe (5) 8:32

 

 

We now have the tools to understand how to prioritize. We know that doing everything everywhere is not the best strategy and now we have the tools to strategically make prioritization decisions for Lake Tahoe water quality. It doesn’t make sense to put our implementation dollars toward areas that don’t connect hydrologically to the lake. “The prioritization is critical,” says Bob Larsen, Staff Scientist at the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. “We have the tools to be able to assess where to put our dollars to make the biggest difference—to address the real problems. The actions we are taking under the Total Maximum Daily Load are directly addressing water quality. We can now have a conversation about the relative cost-benefit of taking one action over another,” he says.

 

 

photo: Maintaining and operating roads is a big step toward water clarity. Emerald Bay Moraine © 2013 Michelle Sweeney

   

Maintain Roads and Infrastructure for a Clear Lake Tahoe, Kraatz (2)

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Peter Kraatz: Maintain Roads and Infrastructure for a Clear Lake Tahoe (2) 10:10


 

While operation and maintenance of roads is the critical element for the next decade in the strategy to meet the Clarity Challenge and restore Lake Tahoe clarity it is not evident how funds to do the work will be secured. Peter Kraatz, Deputy Director of Public Works at Placer County says in this interview, “I get a lot of complaints about the condition of our roadway surfaces which also adds to the water quality dilemma. We’ve got a lot of roads in Placer County that are already pretty beat up, pretty alligator cracked. That is a reflection of a fund source that just can’t keep up with our road condition, the snow removal we do, all of the things that we do to keep our roads safe. We are maxed out. It goes back to this question of where we find additional funding sources—not only to keep our roads in good condition, a safe riding surface, but also to do the things that we need to for sediment reduction and restoring Lake Tahoe clarity.” 

 

 

Existing infrastructure such as roads and bike paths can be operated and maintained to help Lake Tahoe clarity. photo: Tahoe City Bike Path source: Tahoe City Public Utility District

   

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