Monday, August 19, 2013

Tahoe Summit 2013 - Dianne Feinstein on the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act

Well, in 1997 it was the worst, and lake clarity actually dropped something like 22 feet the week after this.  Thanks to Jeff Schladow's latest paper that's been put put, since '97 we have gained 11 feet in lake clarity.  [applause] And, when we began our bills, I really didn't know what was going to work and what wasn't.  So we tried to combine a number of different things and be very prudent, and lake clarity is more or less a guide.  It goes up, and it goes down, but the trend line has to be that the clarity improves because then we know that the things we are doing have achieved a benefit.

I also want to express to you that this partnership is multidimensional: it is not JUST the federal government.  It is the federal government, it is each state putting in funds.  We had $1.69 billion spent (that's an awful lot of money) in the last 10 years and the important thing is to see if that $1.69 billion dollars is working.  The federal share was $554 million, the California share was $647 million (Thank you, Jerry, Thank you John), the Nevada share was $110 million plus $200 million from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act.  Local governments put in $73 million dollars for this program, and the private sector $312 million dollars.  So, what that demonstrates is that everyone is working together to put funds in to what must be a very practical and doable program. I did this last year and I'm going to do it again because it's important that you know where your tax dollars have gone.

We have treated 54,444 acres of hazardous fuels, and I cannot tell you how important that is.  Forest fire is something that I know something about, and I travel the California side of the lake and it needs a lot of help.  The fire ladders are all over the place with non-native species that are intensely flammable.  The forest fire that is burning 30 miles over these hills to the west, the winds are westerly and we have a big fire and we have lightning strikes and it starts big fires and it destroys property, it destroys trees, and everything goes into the lake, and decades of work is gone.

We have added 15,800 acres for wildlife habitat.  We have added 2,579 feet of public access to shoreline.  We have created 136 miles of bike and pedestrian routes. And we have inspected, as was just said, and decontaminated thousands of watercraft.

When we began this effort there was no hazardous fuels mitigation.  There was no interaction between the states and the federal government as there is today.  So, the risk of wildfire is tremendous.  I remember it was my birthday a couple of years back, and in Northern California on that day there were 2,200 lightning strikes that started 900 wildfires.  That could be any day, any time, right here.  So, getting property owners to clear around their buildings  is important.  Getting hazardous fuels out of the area is important.  And, I think, paying attention to good fire safe practices is important.  I shudder to think of what that day will be like, but I also know that one day, is is coming.  It has happened here before, and it can happen here again, and we must do everything we can to minimize it.

Who knew, that there was something called a Quagga Mussel and it was at Lake Mead and they reporduce a million eggs for a million Quaggas a year?  And I have a pipe in my office from lake Mead and in 6 months it was entirely filled with quagga mussel shells.  We have to keep the quagga out.  Miss Marchetta was talking about every boat that goes into this lake gets inspected and there's a reason: the Asian clam.  The Tahoe Fund now is going to be doing 5 and a half acres of laying rubber down in Emerald Bay because the Asian clam has drifted to that beautiful bay and we cannot lose it.  So that's an important project and I say to the Tahoe Fund "Thank You, very, very much."

Well, Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, myself, and the other senator for Nevada have put together a second bill now, which we are in the process of introducing.  It's $415 million in federal dollars over 10 years: it continues the hazardous fuels reduction with $135 million, it's $113 million for storm water management and watershed restoration, it's $80 million for projects to improve forest health, air and water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat, and it's $30 million to battle invasive species.  This is up $10 million because we think it's really necessary.  We cannot let these creatures get control of this lake.  [applause]  and the bill also invests $30 million in something called the Tahoe Basin Science Program, and this will allow us to direct funds to the most worthy projects that are effective in both monitoring and producing good environmental effects.

With Harry Reid's support, and I mean he's the powerful majority leader of the United States Senate, you can be sure - Right Harry? - Yes. [audience laughs] that the bill will pass the Senate.  We will need help in the House.  The House is not known for doing constructive projects right now.  And so now we need your help to go out there and say "Look, we've done this for 10 years and it's worked." Water clarity is showing us that it has worked. We must continue, and this bill continues the work for all.  And so, I hope, ladies and gentlemen, that this work will go on, that we will see Tahoe improve, and that we will save what is only one of two alpine clear lakes in the world.  The other one, as the leader said, is in Russia, and the ambassador was just telling me that lake has enough clear water in it to be drinking water for 20% of the people in the world.  So it's a huge clear lake and we have the second clear lake and we must keep it that way.  So, thank you, it's been a great 20 years, and now we have to keep going!