$2 billion could buy 13 feet of clarity at Lake Tahoe | TheUnion.com

$2 billion could buy 13 feet of clarity at Lake Tahoe

INCLINE VILLAGE – Bringing Lake Tahoe’s clarity back to a midway bench mark of 75 to 80 feet in 20 years could cost anywhere from $1.8 billion to $2 billion in capital improvement expenses according to a report recently presented at a Pathway 2007 Forum.

Currently, the clarity of Lake Tahoe is measured by seeing a white disk 67.7 feet below the surface. Lake clarity is measured against a 1968 standard of 97.4 feet.

Three different scenarios to increase lake clarity were presented by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board at a Pathway Forum meeting last week in Kings Beach. Each scenario represented a different level of compliance required in four different environmental categories around the lake to reduce the amount of fine sediment.

Fine sediments are particles smaller than the width of a human hair that enter the lake and reduce clarity.

Scenario A focuses on retrofitting and enhancing current lake practices to deal with atmospheric, urban and ground water sediment. At a $1.8 billion price tag for capital costs, this plan suggests a 31.7 percent reduction in particles to improve clarity by almost 11 feet to a 78.6 feet clarity level in 20 years. Taking it a step further, scenario B also includes new innovations and suggests 78.7 feet of lake clarity for $1.5 billion.

The most rigorous possibility is scenario C which exceeds the 20-year bench mark with 81.5 feet of clarity at $2 billion.

The purpose of creating the scenarios was not to create a requirement, but rather to start a conversation about methods to improve lake clarity, said Robert Larsen, an environmental scientist with the Lahontan water board.

“We’re going to keep working on this information,” Larsen said.

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