Input sought on Tahoe-clouding Blackwood Creek
Tahoe’s biggest sediment offender is in the crosshairs of the California Tahoe Conservancy, and members are looking for local input on how to clean it using $3 million in state and federal money.
Blackwood Creek, three miles south of Tahoe City, deposits the most sediment acre-for-acre of any creek in the Tahoe basin. And while The U.S. Forest Service has been repairing the watershed in the mountains since 2003, the California Tahoe Conservancy is now tackling the 4,000-foot stretch above Highway 89 that is owned by the state.
“There are a lot of impacts from logging up until the 1970s, heavy grazing and gravel mining,” said Adam Lewandowski, wildlife program coordinator for the conservancy. “There are impacts all the way from the lake up the watershed.”
Steep watersheds like Blackwood Canyon splay out at the bottom in what is called an alluvial fan, where the creek spreads out and changes course over time, Lewandowski said.
So when the stream was set on one course through the culvert under Highway 89 in 1918, the stream went into further disrepair, Lewandowski said.
The conservancy’s work will look beyond erosion and sediment, to habitat improvement, Lewandowski said.
“About 80 percent of basin species use riparian habitat, and Blackwood was historically one of the most important fisheries in the basin,” he added.
The roughly one-year project will reshape trouble spots on the creek, creating small flood plains and improving habitat, Lewandowski said.
In addition, workers will fix the trail to Eagle Rock, reducing the erosion coming from the popular foot path, he said.
The estimated $3-million project will be funded through a combination of state and Army Corps of Engineers money, Lewandowski said.
“We’re hoping to construct in 2009, but a lot of things have to fall into place, so it could get pushed back to 2010,” Lewandowski said.
Likewise, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the U.S. Forest Service has been working to restore the creek to more natural channels upstream, according to unit spokesman Rex Norman.
The Blackwood Canyon project is the largest watershed and ecosystem project in the history of the Tahoe basin, according to Norman.
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