ZEPHYR COVE, Nev. (AP) — Officials from both Nevada and California gathered on the shores of Lake Tahoe on Monday to discuss how to deal with the heavy visitor traffic that takes a toll on the lake environment.
Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller hosted Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown for the 19th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval did not attend because he had a meeting with President Barack Obama in Las Vegas, but other dignitaries including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison were present.
“There is wide bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., as well as in Nevada and California to make sure that Lake Tahoe is preserved and the environment is protected,” Hutchison said after the event. “At the end of the day, if you’ve got Republicans and Democrats working together, we’re going to continue to see Lake Tahoe as beautiful as it is for generations to come.”
The summit, themed “Connecting Lake Tahoe’s Environment and Economy Through Innovation and Transportation,” focused on managing the crowds that flock to the sunny beaches and chilly waters of the alpine lake.
The high visitor volume raises concerns about erosion, air pollution and runoff. Rows of vehicles parked alongside the road present safety hazards.
Nevada recently invested $30,000 a year to operate the East Shore Express, a shuttle service that buses guests from Incline Village to the popular Sand Harbor State Park. Smartphone apps that help guests find parking spots could improve traffic flow, Hutchison said.
Efforts to develop more bike paths along the lake, and divert cyclists off dangerous, narrow roadways, are ongoing. The four senators from California and Nevada introduced a bill last month that seeks to invest $415 million in the Lake Tahoe Basin over 10 years, including $80 million for transportation projects such as bike trails.
“I want more visitors to experience the lake. And I want them to feel safe while doing it,” Heller said in prepared remarks.
Summit speakers also touched on plans to curb wildfires and keep invasive species, such as quagga and zebra mussels, out of the lake. The bill in the Senate proposes $150 million for wildfire-prevention projects such as reducing vegetation that could become fuel for fire in high-risk areas and improving water infrastructure to aid firefighters.
It also calls for $45 million for a lake-wide Invasive Species Management Program, and a boat inspection program so mussels aren’t transferred from other lakes into Tahoe.
The summit has been held every year since 1997, when President Bill Clinton ordered federal agencies to formally coordinate to protect the lake.