Report: Lake Tahoe clarity on track despite setback in 2013

The famously clear waters of Lake Tahoe got a little murkier in 2013, according to a new report, but officials say the lake remains on a long-term path to better water clarity.

The annual “State of the Lake Report” by UC Davis reveals that average annual water clarity at Lake Tahoe declined by about 5 feet in 2013 to a depth of 70.1 feet. They blamed the decline mainly on wet, stormy conditions in December 2012. Water clarity during summer, considered the biggest challenge facing the lake, was virtually identical to 2012 and improved more than 13 feet compared to 2011.

The 100-page report details many other environmental changes at Lake Tahoe, considered a global treasure for its large size and sparkling clarity. A recent focus of concern is environmental degradation in the near-shore environment, which is where most visitors experience the lake. Invasive species, algae growth and rising temperatures threaten not just the lake’s near-shore environment but also Tahoe’s tourism economy.

The report describes a new network of 20 real-time monitoring stations that will be installed, starting this month, with cooperation of private property owners. The stations will help researchers track environmental changes and figure out how to improve the near-shore environment.

“Why it is continuing to degrade is poorly understood,” said Geoff Schladow, Tahoe Environmental Research Center director. “I’m hoping the nearshore network will start to fill that void.”

The report can be found online at: http://terc.ucdavis.edu/news/stateofthelake/.

In related news, Sen. Dianne Feinstein will host the annual Lake Tahoe Summit at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Tallac Historic Site in South Lake Tahoe. A variety of speakers will address fire prevention and forest restoration, invasive species and water quality.