The Clarity Challenge is an agreement to "implement the steps required to restore Lake clarity to a depth of 71 feet by the year 2016... This is a very, very aggressive target. It will take everyone—everyone making a concerted effort." - Jared Blumenfeld, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Pacific Southwest Region Administrator
NOVEMBER 5, 2011
Lake Tahoe is becoming less and less clear with the fine sediment, phosphorous and nitrogen going into it because of human activity in the watershed. Driving, excavating, hiking, riding, gardening…are all activities that move soil into the lake via streams and runoff. Fine sediment particles, phosphorous and nitrogen are officially “pollutants” at Lake Tahoe by the standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California’s Lahontan Water Quality Control Board (Water Board) and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, three agencies charged with keeping pollutants out of national and state waters. Via the Total Maximum Daily Load Program (TMDL) these agencies can set rules or create agreements with local jurisdictions to get the quantity of pollutants that go into the water under certain levels.
The Clarity Challenge is an agreement to “implement the steps required to restore Lake clarity to a depth of 71 feet by the year 2016, 78 feet by 2026 and 97.4 feet by 2076” said Jared Blumenfeld, Region 9 Administrator of the U.S. EPA at the signing of the Clarity Challenge/TMDL document on August 16, 2011 by the Governors of Nevada and California. “So every single year the goal, from now though the next 65 years, is to get half a foot of clarity back. So every two years, 1 foot,” said Blumenfeld. To those who ask whether 65 years is too long, Blumenfeld’s response is, “This is a very, very aggressive target.”
“What we are setting out here is the road map for the next 65 years,” said Blumenfeld. He continued, “While many of us may not be here to see 100 feet of clarity many of today’s kids will. Much of the responsibility will fall on all of our shoulders. This isn’t a case where the federal government can come in and fix it or the state government or the regional entities or the board of supervisors or the local council. It will take everyone—everyone making a concerted effort. In some cases it will cost more money. In some cases it is about doing things differently. It is about taking a bicycle trip to the store instead of driving. It is about saying, ‘You know finally in South Lake Tahoe we want to have a storm drain and a curb and a sidewalk like other cities’. [We are] just at the beginning of implementation.”
The Clarity Challenge and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) documents were signed by the Governors of Nevada and California on August 16th 2011 solidifying the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board’s adoption of the Lake Tahoe TMDL at its November meeting in 2010. As of November 2011 the Water Board has released the proposed version of the storm water permits for El Dorado and Placer counties and the City of South Lake Tahoe. The permits are the mechanism by which the Water Board compels TMDL implementation in California. Next, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) will issue letters stating the terms of agreement for TMDL implementation in the Nevada jurisdictions in the Basin.
Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board | Final Lake Tahoe Total Maximum Daily Load Report
U.S Environmental Protection Agency | Jared Blumenfeld, Administrator Region 9
Nevada Division of Environmental Protection | Lake Tahoe Watershed Program
Charting the Course to Clarity | 2008-2009 PDF Document
Charting the Course to Clarity | Video on You Tube
TAHOE PROJECT | The Story of Sediment Part 1