Environmental Improvement Program

Despite Lake Tahoe’s exceptional water quality, it is considered impaired since it does not meet the transparency standard of approximately 100 feet measured in 1968. In 1997, the Lake’s clarity measurement hit a then all-time low of 64 feet. Other concerns were also documented such as degrading air quality and an ever-growing fuel load in the forests surrounding Lake Tahoe. The Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program (EIP), a collaborative, long-term strategy to preserve and restore the Lake Tahoe Basin, was created to address the degradation of Lake Tahoe’s water clarity and surrounding environment.

The EIP encompasses hundreds of capital improvement, research, and program support projects designed to achieve and maintain environmental thresholds that protect Tahoe’s unique and valued resources. These projects strive to repair damage to water and air quality, forest health, fish and wildlife, scenic views and to improve public access to Lake Tahoe’s abundant recreational opportunities.

Through a substantial investment of resources of over 50 federal, state, and local agencies, and the private sector, the EIP is intended to increase the pace at which environmental thresholds will be attained. Now, a decade after its launch, the EIP is poised to move into a new phase with a planning horizon through 2017 to build on the achievements made to date.

To read more about the Environmental Improvement Program, visit the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s EIP website.

History of the EIP

The EIP was created following the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, an event which proved to be a pivotal turning point for Lake Tahoe’s future by inspiring a renewed commitment to the Region. The Presidential Forum resulted in a multi-level commitment by the States of California and Nevada, the Federal Government, local governments and the private sector to expand and accelerate efforts to address rapidly declining resource values at Lake Tahoe. The EIP called for an investment of $908 million in capital projects and $58 million in research and monitoring. The EIP also identified hundreds of specific projects and programs to be undertaken by the more than 50 partners. The projects were focused on improving air, water, and scenic quality, forest health, fish and wildlife, and public access to the Lake and other recreation areas.

In total, all partners contributed more than $1.1 billion for EIP projects and programs in the first decade. By 2007, more than 270 EIP capital projects were on the ground, and hundreds more were in the planning and implementation stages. These projects have improved the health of Tahoe forests and watersheds, reduced traffic congestion, and increased public access to the Lake.

Continuing the Commitment to the EIP

In 2008, the EIP was updated. The new EIP builds upon the accomplishments to date, with an increased emphasis on monitoring, research, adaptive management, and performance benchmarks. These new areas of emphasis are essential to ensure that the most cost-effective projects are implemented, and to better document and evaluate progress toward meeting the environmental thresholds. The new EIP also emphasizes the following priority areas: Aquatic Invasive Species; Forest Fuels Reduction; Science, Accountability; and Climate Change.

The new EIP encompasses 6 focus areas: Watershed, Habitat & Water Quality; Forest Management; Air Quality & Transportation; Recreation and Scenic Resources; Applied Science; and Program Support.

To ensure the health of the Lake Tahoe Basin, continued cooperation among funding and implementing entities is essential to completing projects identified in the EIP. An additional $2.45 billion in public and private investment is needed over the next decade to effectively implement these and other EIP programs and to maintain progress toward meeting the Basin’s environmental threshold standards. While approximately $800 million has already been committed to the new EIP by partners, an additional $1.7 billion remains to be secured. TRPA and its federal, state, and local and private partners are working together to raise funds, to establish priority projects, and to document their efforts in annual progress reports over the next decade of EIP implementation.

California’s Commitment to the EIP

The states of California and Nevada have played a key role in developing and implementing the EIP. In 1997, Governor Wilson of California and Governor Miller of Nevada convened a gubernatorial summit in anticipation of the Presidential Forum and signed a Memorandum of Agreement pledging their support for the EIP.

The state of California fulfilled its funding commitment in the first decade of the EIP. Through projects funded primarily through California Tahoe Conservancy, State Parks, and Caltrans, the state of California committed more than $446 million to EIP projects from funds made available through Propositions 204, 12, 40, 50, 84, and other sources.

Many Partners, Many Roles

There are a number of California agencies that are part of the EIP. These California agencies and the local California jurisdictions make up the California Partnership. The agencies represented in the California Partnership play a number of different roles including implementation, regulation, and funding.

The California Partnership is comprised of six state agencies and six local jurisdictions/agencies, including:

State Agencies

  • California Tahoe Conservancy (Conservancy)
  • California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS)
  • California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR)
  • Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board (LRWQCB)
  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
  • California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)

Local Jurisdictions/Agencies

  • El Dorado County
  • Placer County
  • City of South Lake Tahoe (CSLT)
  • North Tahoe Public Utilities District (NTPUD)
  • Tahoe City Public Utilities District (TCPUD)
  • South Lake Tahoe Public Utilities District (STPUD)

The Conservancy’s Role in the EIP

Since 1997, with the execution of various agreements between the State of California and the State of Nevada, the Federal Government, and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), the California Tahoe Conservancy’s program activities have been undertaken in support of the EIP for the Lake Tahoe Basin. In order to fulfill California’s obligations to the EIP, the Tahoe Conservancy significantly increased its effort to preserve the Lake; restore and protect the region’s rivers, watersheds, wildlife habitat and forest; and enhance public access opportunities.

The broad scope of the EIP requires a collaborative, coordinated effort by an array of State, Federal, and local agencies. The Conservancy has assumed a leadership role in the State of California’s efforts to further the goals of the EIP through a comprehensive program of planning, funding and implementation of projects – on its own lands, through local assistance grants, and through EIP coordination efforts.