Clinton Unveils Plan To Clean Up Lake Tahoe
LAKE TAHOE, Nevada (AllPolitics, July 26) -- President Bill Clinton went to one of the nation's most scenic spots Saturday to pledge $26 million in federal help for environmental protection.
As part of his plan for Lake Tahoe, Clinton promised a $7 million sewage pipeline to replace South Lake Tahoe's deteriorating one; shuttle bus service for beach-goers; natural gas postal trucks to replace the area's fleet of diesel-burners, and $1 million for the U.S. Forest Service to acquire additional acreage from willing sellers.
Clinton said it was the nation's duty to preserve Tahoe's fabled purity.
"We cannot divide our quest for prosperity from our obligation to hand nature -- God's great gift to us -- on down through the generations," Clinton told local leaders in the popular vacation spot.
His commitment, doubling to $50 million over two years the federal help for Lake Tahoe, included promises for future funds.
"We commit to take more than 25 specific actions and more than double the federal government's investment in the (Tahoe) basin in each of the next two years to well over $50 million," Clinton said.
Order puts in motion 27-point action plan
In rolled-up shirtsleeves that matched the blue water, Clinton signed an executive order launching a 27-point action plan to help save the lake. He also authorized controlled fires to clear the surrounding forests of a century's buildup of fire-prone trees and brush.
The federal government owns about 80 percent of the Lake Tahoe basin, which is ringed by casinos and ski resorts.
Experts estimate it will cost $900 million over the next 10 years to reverse the decline of Lake Tahoe, which straddles the California-Nevada state line high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The two states have pledged $360 million and look to the federal government to furnish the rest.
Regional planners wanted $300 in commitments from Washington, but that's more than the administration says it can deliver in the budget-conscious political climate.
"The issue is not dollars," Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said. "The issue is protecting this lake and bringing these forests back to life."
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart added: "We're committed to expanding after the first two years, but we're only announcing things where there are actual projects."
Development has taken its toll
Once described by author Mark Twain as "surely the fairest sight the whole earth affords," Lake Tahoe is slowly losing the crystalline brilliance for which it is famous because of the growth of algae, caused by soil erosion and urban runoff.
In addition, many trees around the deep alpine lake are infested with bark beetles, and the thousands of vehicles carrying tourists have clogged roads and fouled the air.
The lake loses 1.4 million gallons of water a day through excessive evaporation and serves as a daily water supply for 3.5 million people.
The environmental threat has spawned an extraordinary save-the-lake coalition that cuts across political, economic and social lines.
"One of the reasons that I wanted to come here," Clinton said, "was to show the nation that there is a place where environmentalists and business people and ordinary citizens ...where everyone is working together in common cause, recognizing that there cannot be an artificial dividing line between preserving our heritage and growing our economy."
Also on the trip, through a "special use permit," Clinton essentially returned to the Washoe Indian tribe, for the first time in more than 100 years, a parcel of property with access to the water's edge. In Washoe, the word for Tahoe means "edge of the lake."
Clinton, starting a three-day swing through the U.S. West, a region keen on environmental issues, unveiled his plan to bolster the cleanup effort after touring Lake Tahoe with Vice President Al Gore aboard a research boat that stopped periodically to test the purity of the waters.
CNN correspondent John King contributed to this report.
Copyright © 1997 AllPolitics All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this information is provided to you.