The Lake Tahoe Basin’s watersheds and stream environment zones have been significantly impacted by growth and development. The watershed management program is an integrated approach designed to improve Lake clarity, restore Stream Environment Zones (SEZ), and make progress on vegetation, soils, wildlife and fisheries environmental threshold standards. Restoration of these riparian areas is essential to improve Lake clarity by filtering runoff.
Many of the Lake Tahoe watersheds and aquatic habitats are degraded. Many streams no longer function properly as a result of past or ongoing human activities. Poorly functioning streams contribute significant quantities of sediment and nutrients to the Lake. Land use practices within watersheds have also led to increased sedimentation and stream channel alteration which has damaged aquatic habitats.
EIP partners will assess watershed conditions to identify and prioritize individual projects. In most watersheds, projects are needed to improve the geomorphic function and floodplain connectivity of streams. Projects are designed to replenish overdrafted groundwater tables and restore native vegetation, as well as implementing BMPs to reduce sediment and nutrient loading in non-urbanized sections of watersheds. EIP projects also focus on enhancement of specific aquatic habitat types or the processes that create and maintain those habitat types. Projects will remove, improve, or replace structures such as culverts, dams, or bridges that create movement barriers for aquatic species or reduce the hydrologic function of streams. Revegetation is needed to stabilize stream banks and restore floodplains. Public acquisition of sensitive lands will help ensure that private development does not disproportionately impact the watershed. These restoration projects benefit all environmental thresholds and are the most cost-effective methods to reduce pollutant loading to the Lake, according to TMDL data.
Individual watersheds have been prioritized based on the degree to which they are degraded and the extent to which they pollute Lake Tahoe as indicated by the Lake Tahoe TMDL Technical Report. On the California side, tributaries depositing the most sediment into Lake Tahoe are the Upper Truckee River, Blackwood Creek, and Ward Creek. On the Nevada side, high-priority creeks and watersheds with similar types of degradation are targeted for restoration: Third, Rosewood, and Edgewood Creeks. In addition to physical management of watersheds, the EIP includes programs for public acquisition of environmentally sensitive land in multiple watersheds.
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Some projects operate over larger areas and are not represented on the map, but are listed in the project grid below. A full-screen, filterable version of this map is also available.