The U.S. Senate has passed a measure intended to deliver more than $200 million of federal funding promised for the cleanup of Lake Tahoe.
The money is part of an ambitious restoration program designed to halt the effects of pollution that has been robbing the famous lake of its deep-blue clarity. Scientists have blamed contamination of the lake and adjacent wetlands on fallout from air pollution and runoff from development in the surrounding Tahoe Basin.
In 2000, Congress authorized $297 million as part of a $908-million, decadelong spending program funded by federal, state and local interests.
But the annual congressional appropriations have fallen short of the level needed to fully meet the federal share. The Senate provision would correct that by adding Lake Tahoe to the list of items that can be funded with proceeds of federal land sales in the Las Vegas Valley. Approved as part of the 2004 Interior Appropriations Bill late Tuesday, the measure will go to a conference committee for House approval.
"This is an important step in preserving and restoring this national treasure," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who co-sponsored the provision with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). "I have long believed that the federal government has a vital role to play here and have been disappointed that it has been such a difficult fight each year to get funding for Lake Tahoe."
The proposal was introduced by Nevada's senators, Republican John Ensign and Democrat Harry Reid.
California has appropriated $240 million for the environmental work, which includes erosion control wetland restoration.
"There's going to be an ongoing need, and this allows us to get to the total," Dennis Machida, executive officer of the California Tahoe Conservancy, said of the Senate action.