Tahoe Resource Conservation District acquisition marks milestone for restoration efforts
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (May 17, 2018) – Nearly a decade in the works, the Tahoe Resource Conservation District (Tahoe RCD) has finalized the acquisition of Johnson Meadow, putting the largest private stretch of South Lake Tahoe’s Upper Truckee River into public ownership.
The acquisition marks a major milestone for the health of the Upper Truckee River watershed, the largest watershed feeding into Lake Tahoe and one of the most impaired in the Sierra Nevada. The Upper Truckee River is a major contributor of fine sediment impacting the clarity of Lake Tahoe.
The purchase of the $8.315 million 206-acre property was made possible through a collaboration between Tahoe RCD, the California Tahoe Conservancy, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and the Tahoe Fund. The Mosher family, who owned Johnson Meadow for almost a century, at one time used the property as a dairy and for cattle grazing. The family protected the property from development for several decades until recently seeking a public agency to purchase and restore the land.
“This is the final large piece of the puzzle necessary to unlock what will be Tahoe’s largest restoration effort to date,” said Katy Simon Holland, Board Chair of the Tahoe Fund. “It took an epic collaboration to make this acquisition possible. We are incredibly grateful to have received early support and initial funding from Barton Health and Heavenly Mountain Resort.”
These private donations of $50,000 each were essential to demonstrate a strong local commitment to the project and to secure more than $8 million from Proposition 1, a water bond initiative approved by California voters in 2014.
The acquisition is the first step towards the most significant watershed restoration effort in the Tahoe Basin. Over the next several years, Tahoe RCD and its partners will be seeking $10-15 million to restore Johnson Meadow and more than $60 million for a collaborative effort to restore the Upper Truckee River watershed. Funding from Proposition 68, a parks bond on the June 2018 ballot, would provide a significant boost to this historic effort.
“Our goal is to prevent additional environmental degradation, preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, provide public access, and ensure a healthy watershed for future generations,” said Nicole Cartwright, executive director of Tahoe RCD.
The restoration strategy, which also includes major projects by the Tahoe Conservancy, the US Forest Service, the City of South Lake Tahoe, and California State Parks, aims to restore over 1,000 acres of unique and valuable habitat and reduce stream erosion by more than 50 percent.
Climate change resiliency will also be a focus as projects aim to improve the watershed’s ability to sustain rising temperatures, longer droughts, extreme floods, and other impacts of climate change, in addition to providing a refuge for native fish and wildlife species as temperatures increase at lower elevations.
Adapting to future climate change will be critical for watershed health and water management according to Katharine Davis Reich, associate director of communications at the UCLA Center for Climate Science, which recently completed projections of climate in the Sierra Nevada at the middle and end of this century. “Warmer temperatures will cause a greater share of precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow,” said Reich. “That means more wintertime rain and earlier, flashier pulses of runoff than we’re used to. The snowpack will also be smaller, so that runoff from snowmelt won’t last as long into the spring and summer.”