Placer County’s Department of Public Works Tahoe Engineering Division is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. With a long list of completed projects and current projects in the works, one of the Division’s recent projects was awarded a Best in the Basin Award by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA). The annual award was given for the Lake Forest Erosion Control, Stream and Habitat Restoration Project.
The project returned a stream channel, meadow and wetlands to their historic condition and course. The project moved a large amount of soil that was used in the 1960s to fill in the meadow in anticipation of a construction project that was never built. The 35-acre restoration project required moving 21,000 yards of soil, 3,000 yards of which were trucked out of the Basin. The stream was returned to its original path and native vegetation was replanted in the area. Filling a meadow that served as a runoff sediment filter contributed to the degradation of the lake’s clarity.
The restoration project, which began in 2009 and was completed in 2011, was so successful that spawning kokanee salmon were seen last fall in the waterway below Pomin Park. While the salmon run near Lake Forest Meadow only lasted a short time, it is the first time these fish have been seen in this creek in decades. The run has gone missing since the 1960s when Lake Forest Meadow was filled and numerous stream channels were diverted into a culvert
“For many years, there have been projects built in the Tahoe Basin that harmed the Lake,” said Placer County Board of Supervisors’ Chairwoman Jennifer Montgomery, who represents the county’s portion of the Lake Tahoe. “This restoration project is an excellent example of how we, as stewards of this national treasure, can correct past mistakes and improve the scenic and environmental conditions around the lake. TRPA’s recognition of this innovative project, and the fact that we had spawning fish in the stream last autumn tells us we are on the right track.”
Kokanee salmon are actually not a native fish species to Lake Tahoe. Their introduction likely occurred in the 1920s when an overflow of troughs in the Tahoe City fish hatchery allowed kokanee fry to escape into the lake. The fish established themselves, despite the belief that they wouldn’t survive in the alpine environment. The salmon have thrived in Lake Tahoe and do not prey on the lake’s native fish.
TRPA’s Best in the Basin awards program is in its 22nd year and has recognized projects that demonstrate exceptional planning, design, and compatibility with the Lake Tahoe environment. According to the Agency, the restoration and protection efforts at Lake Tahoe are among the most innovative in the world and set an example for other communities facing similar issues.
The Placer County Department of Public Works Tahoe Engineering Division has overseen numerous projects and programs in the Tahoe Basin in its decade at the Lake and other portions of eastern Placer County, including:
- Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement Project;
- Tahoe City Transit Center;
- Kings Beach Watershed Improvement Project;
- Public Parking Facilities;
- Dollar Creek Shared-Use Trail;
- Snow Creek Stream Environment Zone Restoration;
- Numerous Erosion Control Projects to help attain the water quality threshold of TRPA’s Environmental Improvement Program;
- Compliance with Municipal Storm Water Permit for Basin portion of Placer County;
- Utility Undergrounding Projects;
- Donner Pass Road Slope Stabilization Project;
- Alpine Meadows Bridge Replacement;
- Public Bus Stop Shelters; and
- Roadway Encroachment Program.
Public Works is also responsible for snow removal operations for County-maintained roadways at Lake Tahoe and for Tahoe Area Regional Transit (TART), Placer County’s public transportation system at the lake.