If you have ever been to Lake Tahoe, California, I’m sure you can agree with me that it is one of the most breathtaking spots in the U.S. Situated between Nevada and California, with seventy-two miles of shoreline and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range as its backdrop, this alpine lake is known for both its beauty and clarity. Visitors flock from all around the country to enjoy the wonders and recreational opportunities that Lake Tahoe has to offer. Although this is great for the local economy, it leads to an increase of human activities and urban development around the lake. As a result the lake’s famed clarity, which once measured 100 feet deep, has declined thirty percent since 1968.
Over the years, Lake Tahoe has faced multiple threats including: pollution, cultural eutrophication, sediment erosion, invasive species and more recently, the impacts of climate change. Because of its location at the bottom of a very deep basin, there are sixty-three streams and tributaries that flow into the lake, but only one that flows out. Consequently, environmental contaminants can easily flow into the lake from multiple sources, but very little can flow back out. This is why it is so important to prevent runoff at all levels and protect natural filtration systems such as wetlands that remove excess nutrients before runoff reaches the lake.
In response to the multiple threats and environmental challenges Lake Tahoe faces, multiple groups and agencies have been created to promote the environmental integrity of the lake, and to protect its future and sustainability. Additionally, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency was established in 1969 between California and Nevada in order to best coordinate development surrounding the lake. This bi-state compact works to uphold strict regulations and promote environmental restoration. Recently, the compact has been challenged due to politics involving land use, with some citizens hoping for laxer development regulations, and others fighting for the continued protection of this natural treasure.
The future of Lake Tahoe, and protecting our environment as a whole, lies in our hands. To learn more about Lake Tahoe, and what you can do to protect its future, visit The League to Save Lake Tahoe’s website.
What are some environmental regional challenges urban planners in your community face?
Credits: Images by Amanda Christian. Data linked to sources.