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Tahoe Snow Creek Restoration Project Earns Award

October 24, 2014

Placer County’s restoration of a once-contaminated and environmentally damaged site in Tahoe Vista on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore was recently awarded the Envision Platinum award. The Snow Creek Stream Environment Zone Restoration Project was a cooperative effort led by the Department of Public Works’ Tahoe Engineering Division office.

The site was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony this week attended by county supervisors and staff, environmental agencies and organizations, the public and student docents who gave visitors tours of the site and explained its features.

The location, on National Avenue, north of State Highway 28, was the longtime site of a cement batch plant that had choked the natural stream with fill, debris and waste, denuded vegetation, and dumped petrochemical and cement waste. The completed project included the removal of fill material, storm water treatment, site grading to re-establish the historical tributary and revegetation to restore the stream environment zone, as well as the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian trail that includes boardwalk sections elevated above environmentally-sensitive areas.

The award given to the project this week was the highest attainable level of award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. The platinum award is the first ever given by the Institute. The project was evaluated for the award based on the sustainable practices that were implemented. Public Works restored a tributary, improved community mobility, increased access to open space, monitored and protected water resources, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, collaborated with the community with an educational outreach, preserved habitat and minimized the carbon footprint during construction. Even the bridge itself was made from recycled materials and carefully installed to minimize tree removal and site disturbance.         

Throughout the project a local fifth grade class at Glenshire Elementary school was involved in the restoration. The children recorded willow tree measurements, took water quality samples and planted some of the revegetation after the hazardous material was removed from the site.  The class also wrote content and did the graphic design for the interpretive signs installed at the site. Four of these students returned as sixth graders during the ceremony as docents and participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony.

“It’s delightful to be in Tahoe Vista to see the great work by county staff, and Kansas McGahan in particular, to rehabilitate an area to what it was before,” said Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, whose Fifth District includes Placer County’s portion of Lake Tahoe. “This is truly a benefit to the community.”

There are limited opportunities in North Lake Tahoe to restore stream environment zones, and the Snow Creek project represents significant progress in returning the function of the watershed to a more natural state whereby storm water runoff is retained, treated and infiltrated prior to reaching Lake Tahoe.

Placer County Department of Public Works was able to get numerous agencies and organizations to contribute grants to the restoration project. Those agencies include:

US EPA Brownfields;
California Natural Resources Agency;
Proposition 84 River Parkways;
US Bureau of Land Management;
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency;
North Tahoe Resort Association; and
California Abatement Account.

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