SUBMITTED NEWS RELEASE
South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – The. U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, working with the California Tahoe Conservancy (CTC), is proposing to restore the Sunset Stables Reach of the Upper Truckee River. The proposed project would replace the existing channel with a new one that has the width, depth and curves of a more naturally functioning river. The anticipated result would be a channel that is more stable and connected to the adjacent floodplain, provides better aquatic habitat and supports a healthier meadow ecosystem.
The project area includes about 13,000 linear feet of the river on approximately 297 acres, extending from the middle of the airport runway to Hwy. 50 near Elks Club Drive, comprised mainly of lands owned by CTC (221 acres) and the Forest Service (69 acres). The remaining seven acres consist of county, city and private lands on which no project activities are planned. The Forest Service and CTC are conducting a joint environmental review of the project and have produced a document that satisfies both the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The project is also subject to review by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
While the river has not been directly altered, urban development, gravel mining, construction of the bridge, road, airport and sewer lines, timber harvest and grazing have degraded the watershed. As a result, the river’s banks have become eroded and unstable, and the channel wider and deeper. Rather than overrunning its banks and depositing sediment on the adjacent floodplain, the river is carrying sediments, nutrients and pollutants downstream to Lake Tahoe. The water table in the surrounding meadow is five to seven feet lower than the meadow surface late in the growing season, resulting in a shift to vegetation that’s adapted to the drier conditions and a loss of wet meadow habitat. Stream restoration actions in the Upper Truckee and the other two streams that are the largest contributors of sediment to Lake Tahoe (Blackwood and Ward) are estimated to reduce Basin-wide fine sediment loads two percent within the first 15 years.
The project management team analyzed five alternatives, including the no-action alternative. The proposed project would involve constructing 12,000 feet of new channel, planting and temporarily irrigating native streamside vegetation along the new channel, creating floodplain features such as willow clumps to enhance wildlife and plant habitat, and removing conifers along the new channel. Under the proposal, CTC and the Forest Service would partially fill most of the old channel using excavated soil from the new channel, as well as some imported soil, and revegetate disturbed areas with native plants. Grade control structures at the upstream and downstream ends of each reach would redirect flow into the new channel and block off the old channel.
The Forest Service and CTC would implement the project in two phases, each lasting three to five years. The agencies anticipate implementing Reach 5, which includes both Forest Service and CTC lands, first. Reach 6 includes only CTC lands. The team for this project will continue to coordinate closely with the teams restoring adjacent reaches of the river upstream and downstream to avoid scheduling conflicts and overlapping construction impacts during implementation.
The Forest Service is accepting comments on the proposed project beginning Friday, April 22, 2011, through midnight, Monday, May 23, 2011. For more information on the proposal and how to submit comments, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ltbmu/UpperTruckeeRestoration, or call or email Theresa Loupe, (530) 543-2788, [email protected].