The Placer County Department of Public Works Tahoe Engineering Division has begun the second phase of a large stream environment zone (SEZ) restoration project in the Lake Forest area of North Lake Tahoe. The project will reconstruct historic stream channels that were modified around 1960. In all, 35 acres will be restored.
Currently a large grading project is underway restoring Upper Lake Forest Meadow to its historic features. Some 21,000 yards of soil will be disturbed. In all, 18,000 yards will be moved to a more natural existing grade and 3,000 yards will be removed from the site. Lake Forest and Polaris Creek will be reconstructed by re-channelizing flows back into the historic stream channels, while taking into account existing development. The restoration will increase species richness associated with riparian, meadow, and wetland habitats.
The current work began last month and should be 90 percent completed by the end of October. Minor grading and irrigation work will be done beginning in May, 2011, The restoration will be complete next year.
“The project will be a real benefit to the Lake, the residents, local wildlife and to the long term environmental and economic viability of the Basin,” said Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, whose Fifth District includes the Lake Tahoe portion of Placer County. “Our Department of Public Works has a solid record of watershed and stream environment zone restoration projects and I know they will do an excellent job in this case as well.”
The project’s benefits to the area include improved water quality; soil erosion control, native harvesting and planting; erosion control seeding, improved riparian habitat, enhancement of scenic resources; irrigation, wildlife and fisheries habitat enhancement; and increased public access and interpretive opportunities.
Numerous natural stream channels within the project area were destroyed and streams relocated into man-made conduits or other existing stream channels in anticipation of a proposed condominium project that was never built. The land was then acquired by the California Tahoe Conservancy and restoration began in September 2009. Last year, work was completed on restoration of 300 feet of channel on the north side of State Route 28, along Old Mill Road three miles east of Tahoe City. The channel runs south through the Lake Forest Meadow and ends at the outlet to Lake Tahoe in Pomin Park.
When the meadow was filled it became drier than normal and the amount of vegetation was significantly reduced. This lack of riparian vegetation then reduced wildlife habitat, encouraged erosion, and reduced opportunities for the public to enjoy this area within Placer County and the Lake Tahoe Basin.
When the project is complete, water will flow through the meadow re-establishing a more natural environment. The finished grade of the meadow will be closer to the top of the water table, which will encourage greater vitality for the plant community.
In addition, the project will introduce a self-guided nature trail with interpretive signage for public use. This will help to create an awareness of Tahoe’s wildlife resources, preventing wildlife from being disturbed. The five-mile trail will link the Lake Forest Meadow with the California Department of Transportation’s and Tahoe City Public Utility District’s class one bike trail and Pomin Park.
For additional information, contact Amy Green at Tahoe Public Works Engineering, at 530-581-6234. You can also visit the Department's webpage on the project: Lake Forest.