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Lake Tahoe Receives $415 Million For Restoration

Brandon Rittiman for NPR

Lake Tahoe's South Shore as seen from a ski resort's gondola.

Lake Tahoe has had a good year.

It’s filling up after record lows, and recently it received $415 million dollars in federal funding.

The money will be used over the next seven years to reduce fire risk, limit pollution from storm water runoff, build trails, combat invasive species and improve trout populations.

President Obama signed the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act in December. It’s part of a larger national infrastructure bill, and picks up where an act from 2000 left off.

Darcie Goodman Collins is the executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. She said the money will be used to continue the success they've had so far in protecting and improving the lake.

Lake Tahoe has long been known for it's intense blue color and for its clarity. Collins said at one point the level of clarity was 100 feet. When funding first came through for protecting the lake, the clarity level was at 60 feet. It is now at about 70 feet.

Collins is confident it can get even better.

“I’m very optimistic that we could reach our 100 clarity goal in the next 20 to 40 years,” she said.

All kinds of environmental factors impact the clarity of the lake, but Collins said lake clarity isn't just about the beautiful blue color. 

“Clarity and keeping Tahoe blue is both aesthetic and an indication of the health of the lake,” she said. "A clearer, bluer lake means they've been able to keep invasive species out, minimized the impact of runoff and restored the lake's delicate balance." 

Millions of people flock to Lake Tahoe every year to admire its beauty, but those visitors have an impact, Collins said. 

“The funding will go to improve the lake’s ability to be resilient in light of those impacts,” she said.

The large investment from the federal government will help the group leverage state funding and money from the private sector stretching the investment in the lake even further. 

Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director, League to Save Lake Tahoe

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.