Tahoe Resource Conservation District

News & Updates

The 2017 Tahoe RCD Annual Report is Here

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2017 was a big year for our programs and projects at Tahoe Resource Conservation District, view the report below to see all our work.

2017_Annual_Report

JPA crew

Tahoe RCD to Hold Community Meeting for Input on Stormwater Resources Plan

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Public Information Meeting

The Tahoe RCD, along with agency partners, is developing a Stormwater Resource Plan (SRP). The SRP is required by the California State Water Resources Control Board to establish eligibility for bond funding for stormwater quality improvement projects. It quantifies the multiple benefits of planned stormwater projects and prioritizes them for funding.

Tahoe RCD is hosting two public meetings to introduce the concept of an SRP, present highlights of the draft SRP, and allow an opportunity for public participation.

 

The meetings will be held at the following times and locations:

December 6th, 2017 at 4 pm – City of South Lake Tahoe Council Chamber

December 7th, 2017 at 9 am – Town of Truckee East Wing Conference Room

Tahoe RCD Logo

 

Fire Adapted Communities Emerge in Tahoe

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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif.  – The Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities (Tahoe Network) continues to educate and empower Tahoe residents in its second year of operation. The omnipresence of wildfire in California and Nevada has led to a general awareness of wildfire risk, but knowledge of fire behavior is less widespread. Helping people understand embers – how they ignite materials which can lead to home destruction, and how to prevent such events, is a priority for the program.

Embers are the greatest catalyst to home ignition during wildfire. They can be lofted to the sky and travel miles from the front of a fire, igniting the plants, debris, and trees they land on. These fuel sources can spread fire to homes if not managed properly. Managing the defensible space on properties out to 100 feet is one way to reduce your risk to embers. Because many properties in Tahoe don’t typically extend 100 feet out from a house, talking to your neighbors about defensible space is imperative. The Tahoe Network seeks to connect neighbors and bring defensible space to the community level, creating neighborhood-wide defensible space and wildfire preparedness.

“Even with the best efforts of fire resources; numerous homes are lost within the wildland urban interface due to catastrophic wildfire,” –Michael Schwartz, North Tahoe Fire Protection District Fire Chief “Having defensible space should be a priority for homeowners and renters for several reasons. Defensible space not only keeps your home safe from wildfire, but also your neighbor’s home safe.  Additionally, defensible space is significant for the protection of firefighters defending your home.”

Involved Tahoe residents are a key component to the success of the Tahoe Network. All residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin are encouraged to step up, become leaders, and help prepare their neighborhoods for wildfire. Neighborhood leaders work with community coordinators and fire district personnel, sharing information with neighbors about ember vulnerabilities and defensible space, hosting workshops, and celebrating the work being done. Empowering Tahoe residents to stand with confidence in the face of wildland fire is one of the fundamental outcomes of the program.

The Tahoe Network has myriad landscaping resources to help you incorporate defensible space into your property, as well as vetted lists of contractors who can do the work. Additionally, local fire protection districts provide free defensible space evaluations and chipping services. Please contact your local fire protection district or our community coordinator for more information.

The Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities program is part of the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, and aims to raise wildfire awareness and empower residents to take action to reduce their wildfire risk. For more information on Fire Adapted Communities and how you can help protect your home and community from wildfire, please contact our community coordinator at: eosgood@tahoercd.org 530.543.1501 ext. 114

 

 

Paving the Road to Lake Clarity

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Roads_SW Press Release

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – July 17, 2017

Keeping roads in good condition in the Tahoe Basin has always been a struggle, especially when winters wreak havoc on the asphalt surface.  While diligently removing snow so that we may all travel safely, heavy snow removal equipment, with large tires covered in hefty chains, chew up the surface of the road.  Road sand, critical in keeping vehicles from sliding on icy roads, combined with normal vehicular traffic, also grind and crush the pavement surface.  The frequent freeze and thaw process contributes to asphalt cracking.  Dodging pot holes is a requirement for driving safely in the Tahoe Basin.  In turn, poor road conditions damage vehicles, increasing the cost of vehicle maintenance. 

“Vehicle wear such as popped tires and worn shocks and struts are costs the public pays for inadvertently, and may be greater than or equal to the cost of investing in improving the road surface” says Russ Wigart, Stormwater Program Coordinator with El Dorado County.

It is obvious that poor road conditions lead to more dangerous driving and cycling conditions, unsightly roads, and more wear and tear on vehicles, and higher maintenance costs.  However, there is a new reason to care about the condition of our roads — water quality.  Degrading pavement contributes to an increase in fine sediment particle concentration in stormwater runoff.  Fine sediment particles, or FSP, are the leading cause of lake clarity decline. 

“When the pavement surface gets destroyed by heavy equipment, chains, and normal vehicular traffic, the degraded asphalt gradually gets ground into smaller and smaller particles, resulting in very small sediment particles.  When these tiny particles get into Lake Tahoe via stormwater runoff, they stay suspended in the water column because gravity is not strong enough to settle them to the bottom.  This makes the lake look cloudy” says Andrea Buxton, Stormwater Program Manager at the Tahoe Resource Conservation District.

A recent study, conducted by El Dorado County, UC Davis, and Texas Southern University, collected stormwater samples from two roads in South Lake Tahoe to identify the major sources of clarity reducing FSP in urban runoff.  Molecular markers were used to calculate the fraction of FSP that came from each source.  The major sources were road-side soil, pavement wear, and traction abrasives (road sand). There were no significant differences between the two sampling sites.

“The results of our study suggest that pavement wear is the second largest source of fine sediment in urban stormwater runoff and fine sediment directly affects Lake Tahoe’s clarity” says Wigart.

Depending on the time of year and type of precipitation the contribution of FSP to urban stormwater runoff from road-side soil ranged from 20%-70%, pavement wear ranged from 18%-53%, and traction abrasives ranged from 7%-21%.

Additionally, a smooth road in good condition is much easier to sweep.  Road sweeping machines are much more effective at picking up the fine sediment that inevitably ends up on the road surface if that surface is not covered in cracks and potholes that retain sediment.

Asphalt mix design has come a long way in the last decade and is now engineered for better durability. Adding polymers to the mix increases surface elasticity, allowing the road surface to better resist temperature changes and wear and tear from tire chains and heavy equipment. This not only limits the production of FSP from the road surface, but reduces the cost of road upkeep as well. The City of South Lake Tahoe has been using polymer based asphalt for the last several years but it is estimated that less than ten miles of roads have been repaved with the new mix to date.

These findings imply that maintaining pavement in good condition could positively impact urban stormwater quality and ultimately lake clarity.  El Dorado County and the Tahoe Resource Conservation District would like to continue investigating the relationship between high quality roads and reduced FSP in urban stormwater runoff.

“Our ultimate goal is to get good pavement condition recognized as a Best Management Practice (BMP) for improving urban stormwater quality in the Lake Tahoe Basin” says Buxton, “the results would be a win for the lake and a win for the public.”

“Combining better roads with responsible snow removal and sanding operations could be the future for improving driving experience, reducing vehicle wear, and improving lake clarity” says Wigart.  

To stay up to date with the Lake Tahoe Regional Stormwater Monitoring Program please visit https://monitoring.laketahoeinfo.org/RSWMP.

Tahoma Site Photo 5

Tahoe Stormwater Data Live on Web

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The Tahoe Resource Conservation District (Tahoe RCD) is pleased to announce the launch of a new interactive Monitoring Dashboard on Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s (TRPA) Lake Tahoe (LT) Info website. This pubic-facing portal allows users to browse stormwater monitoring sites and displays summarized stormwater runoff data from around the Tahoe Basin. Sitka Technology Group out of Portland, Oregon is the principal developer of LT Info.

The intent of LT Info is to improve and streamline environmental and community decision-making and build public awareness of environmental and socio-economic conditions in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The first phase of LT Info development included the Environmental Improvement Program Tracker, the Parcel Tracker, and the Sustainability Dashboard. As the LT Info website matured with the refinement of these original applications, more environmental managers were excited to showcase their programs on LT Info.

The next application to be developed was Stormwater Tools, which allows local jurisdictions to report on their progress towards meeting Total Maximum Daily Load credits. The inclusion of Stormwater Tools prompted Andrea Buxton, Stormwater Program Manager at the Tahoe RCD, to contact the TRPA to be included in the development of the website. Tahoe RCD, in collaboration with local jurisdictions, scientists, and stormwater regulators, developed the Lake Tahoe Regional Stormwater Monitoring Program (RSWMP). RSWMP collects stormwater runoff data at eleven long-term monitoring stations around Lake Tahoe. The objective is to be able to measure improvement in stormwater quality over time as more environmental improvement projects are implemented in urban areas.

“The LT Info platform provided the ideal opportunity for us to showcase the results of the stormwater runoff monitoring we have been doing over the last four years. We want RSWMP data to be easily accessible to the local jurisdictions, the regulators, and the general public so that the positive effects of all the time and money spent on environmental improvement can be recognized” says Buxton.

By linking LT Info directly to the recently completed RSWMP Data Management System, developed by Geosyntec Consultants in Portland, Oregon and the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, with a seamless system-to-system connection, LT Info became a platform to display complicated stormwater monitoring data in easy to interpret formats for everyone from stormwater program managers,to regulators, project funders, and the general public, to use for their unique and individual purposes.

RSWMP is the first monitoring program to be incorporated into the Monitoring Dashboard. The TRPA is anticipating that the Monitoring Dashboard will include many other monitoring programs in the future. This will deepen the integration of various environmental monitoring and tracking programs around the Lake Tahoe Basin and increase the value of the data for decision makers.

“We are really excited about how much potential the Monitoring Dashboard has to connect actions to outcomes through the platform” says Jeanne McNamara, LT Info Platform Coordinator at the TRPA.
Please visit https://monitoring.laketahoeinfo.org/RSWMP to browse the beautiful displays and gain a better understanding of what managers are doing to work toward achieving Lake Clarity goals.