Experts explain the impact California wildfires could have on Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity

Peninsula Premier Admin

It’s known worldwide for its clear blue water, but after three weeks of ash raining down on Lake Tahoe, many are worrying about the impact California wildfires will have on the lake’s famed clarity.”We know it affects a lot of aspects of the lake. We don’t know how much or for how long and that’s what some of the questions are we’re trying to answer during this time,” said Jesse Patterson with the League To Save Lake Tahoe.Patterson is the chief strategy officer with the organization, which is best known for creating the “Keep Tahoe Blue” slogan and stickers.The League is helping to fund research currently being done by the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, the University of Nevada, and the Desert Research Institute.”The question is, what does the smoke and everything else do to our water quality and clarity,” he said.Patterson said it’s known from other lake research that when smoke blocks the UV light from getting into the lake, it affects the ecology of the lake, the nutrient cycling and algae.He’s also concerned about the rain that will eventually come, as runoff from burned areas could then make it into the lake.”For now, the aesthetics of the lake — how it looks and how clear it is — those are immediately affected. What we need to know is how long does that last, can it recover, and then how can we reduce it where we can,” he said.Jeff Cowan, with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, said work done in recent years to restore wetlands and marshes — which act as a natural filter for the lake — may help in its recovery, but he believes much more is needed.”Climate change impacts are going to continue to increase and be on the rise. Mega fires are going to become more constant and consistent throughout the Sierra Nevada and potentially at Lake Tahoe, and we need to get ahead of it and continue the forest fuel reduction efforts,” Cowan said.Cowan also said that one fire, even one as large as the Caldor Fire, would have little to no impact on the lake. However, we’re not seeing just one.”A major wildfire like this could roll back the water clarity work, who knows how many years, but it’s the long-term impacts of consistent wildfires and mega fires in the region that are really concerning,” he said.

It’s known worldwide for its clear blue water, but after three weeks of ash raining down on Lake Tahoe, many are worrying about the impact California wildfires will have on the lake’s famed clarity.

“We know it affects a lot of aspects of the lake. We don’t know how much or for how long and that’s what some of the questions are we’re trying to answer during this time,” said Jesse Patterson with the League To Save Lake Tahoe.

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Patterson is the chief strategy officer with the organization, which is best known for creating the “Keep Tahoe Blue” slogan and stickers.

The League is helping to fund research currently being done by the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, the University of Nevada, and the Desert Research Institute.

“The question is, what does the smoke and everything else do to our water quality and clarity,” he said.

Patterson said it’s known from other lake research that when smoke blocks the UV light from getting into the lake, it affects the ecology of the lake, the nutrient cycling and algae.

He’s also concerned about the rain that will eventually come, as runoff from burned areas could then make it into the lake.

“For now, the aesthetics of the lake — how it looks and how clear it is — those are immediately affected. What we need to know is how long does that last, can it recover, and then how can we reduce it where we can,” he said.

Jeff Cowan, with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, said work done in recent years to restore wetlands and marshes — which act as a natural filter for the lake — may help in its recovery, but he believes much more is needed.

“Climate change impacts are going to continue to increase and be on the rise. Mega fires are going to become more constant and consistent throughout the Sierra Nevada and potentially at Lake Tahoe, and we need to get ahead of it and continue the forest fuel reduction efforts,” Cowan said.

Cowan also said that one fire, even one as large as the Caldor Fire, would have little to no impact on the lake. However, we’re not seeing just one.

“A major wildfire like this could roll back the water clarity work, who knows how many years, but it’s the long-term impacts of consistent wildfires and mega fires in the region that are really concerning,” he said.

Contributed by local news sources

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