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Forest Service signs decision to proceed with Upper Truckee River restoration

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usfs-logo-282x300-2089323-2967186South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Supervisor Nancy Gibson has signed a Decision Notice/Finding of No Significant Impact authorizing restoration activities on National Forest System lands associated with the Upper Truckee River Sunset Stables Reach.

Working with the California Tahoe Conservancy (CTC), the Forest Service 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 12,000 linear feet of the river on approximately 286 acres, extending from the middle of the airport runway to Hwy. 50 near Elks Club Drive, comprised of lands owned by CTC (221 acres) and the Forest Service (65 acres). The Forest Service and CTC conducted 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 approximately12,000 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 project, funded by the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act as part of the Environmental Improvement Program, must undergo a 45-day appeal period, and the Forest Service must obtain Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board permits before work can proceed. For more information about the project, visithttp://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ltbmu/UpperTruckeeRestoration, or call or email Theresa Cody, (530) 543-2788,[email protected].

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