This year, the 24th annual Lake Tahoe Summit–hosted by the Lake Tahoe Fund and the office of Nevada’s Senior U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto–was conducted by Zoom as a result of social distancing and recent health concerns in relation to the coronavirus, which is still raging throughout northern Nevada and California and has made the major gathering of public leaders, environmentalists and the public impossible to do in person. The virtual presentation was made on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
The theme for this year’s summit was “Resilient Tahoe” reflecting 50 years of state cooperation through the California-Nevada Compact for Jurisdiction on Interstate Waters.
This year’s keynote speaker was Reno native and Winter Olympian David Wise, who is also a four-time X Games gold medalist and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
In Wise’s speech and comments, he referenced resilience and how it has helped him to become a better athlete. He also referenced it in relation to the state of Lake Tahoe’s current environmental challenges and circumstances.
“Nature, I think, has demonstrated resiliency to me better than anything else,” Wise said. “Nature has a way of taking things that seem or are hard or challenging–or immense obstacles like wildfires and earthquakes, floods and things that seem catastrophic–and repairing them over time. And then suddenly five years later, you look back at a fire landscape…or where a flood came through, and it looks as if it never happened, or it looks like, in some cases, better. Because nature is resilient.”
Also featured during the summit were the governors of Nevada and California, Steve Sisolak (D) and Gavin Newsom (D). Cortez Masto was joined by fellow Nevada U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D) and California senior Senator Dianne Feinstein (D).
Current Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee and junior California Senator Kamala Harris (D) also spoke.
“At its core, the Lake Tahoe Basin today serves as an example to the nation of how communities can work together to address the environmental challenges we face in this moment in time,” Harris said. “Through your decades of tireless work, we’ve been able to improve the lake’s clarity, revitalize the local economy and make the region a major source of environmental research. Yet, there is still so much more to be done, including facing a climate crisis that is banging on our doorstep and threatening the future of our nation.”
Also participating were members of both the California and Nevada Congressional delegations, including Tom McClintock (R), John Garamendi (D) and Mark Amodei (R). Forestry and state government agency leaders also spoke in the video presentation.
The focus of speakers at the summit on Tuesday centered around policy suggestions and projects, including, notably, a Regional Transportation Commission pilot program to provide public transit between Reno-Sparks and the Lake Tahoe regions.
Senator Cortez-Masto, in the Lighthouse Room at the east shore’s Thunderbird Lake Tahoe, had a sit-down interview and conversation with Desert Research Institute (DRI) Researcher Dr. Monica Arienzo, and assistant research professor of hydrology. They talked about the issue of microplastics and its potential effects on Lake Tahoe’s clarity and the region’s water supply long-term.
Dr. Arienzo referenced issues of littering, beach pollution from plastics and the use of washers and dryers putting microplastics in the air. She also listed potential solutions viewers and concerned citizens could take to reduce the proliferation and increase of microplastics, which have been found as far north as in the ice sheet of Greenland. Her suggestions included reducing one’s own carbon footprint by carpooling to the lake, to hang drying clothing to prevent putting microplastics in the air.
Senator Cortez-Masto, then concluded the virtual summit with this statement: “We get to choose which path to take. The Future of this resilient and stunning place is up to us. We must work together to make sure these cold, clear waters last another 10,000 years.”
Don Dike-Anukam is a Reno native attending college in northern Nevada. He has been involved in activist politics for 15 years on and off, and has been involved in multiple campaigns in multiple positions in that time. He also was a college radio political, news, and talk-show host covering a range of stories from hostage standoffs, fires, interviews, and public speeches.