Friday, July 10, 2009

PR -- Residential burn ban in affect

Date: July 9, 2009 Contact: Public Affairs, Cheva Heck 530-543-2608 or Rex Norman 530-543-2627
RESIDENTIAL BURNING BAN TO TAKE EFFECT IN THE LAKE TAHOE BASIN South Lake Tahoe, Calif:-- The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit's Forest Fire Chief will suspend residential burning, also known as "dooryard burning" effective, July 15. These residential burn bans will include both California and Nevada communities throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin. Warm and dry weather has finally moved into the basin this season, and fire protection officials made the move to end dooryard burning due to increased risks in and near residential areas. This burn ban is for residential burns only, and does not prevent federal, state and local fire managers from conducting needed prescribed fire work for fuels reduction on public lands. Prescribed fire work is conducted by fully equipped professional wildland firefighting crews, under favorable weather conditions. The residential burn ban will remain in effect until temperatures, winds and humidity allow for safer conditions.

PR -- Ward Creek watershed project ideas

Date: July 10, 2009 Contact: Public Affairs, Cheva Heck 530-543-2608 or Rex Norman 530-543-2627
South Lake Tahoe, Calif.—The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) is seeking comments on a proposed action for the Ward Creek Watershed Ecosystem Restoration. Ward Creek is located on Tahoe’s West Shore north of the Homewood area. The purpose of the project is to correct effects from old land uses that are causing erosion and impacting water quality, and to promote a higher level of ecosystem function. The proposal consists primarily of breaching and re-vegetation of an old ditch berm in 2 to 3 locations within a roughly 70 foot reach. This will help to re-establish natural drainage patterns. In addition, a series of hand constructed features called “water bars” would be placed on an old logging road to re-establish more natural drainage and reduce erosion. The due date for comments on the proposed action is July 31, 2009. The full Proposed Action Description is available for review at the Forest Supervisor’s Office at 35 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe Calif., and on-line at:

PR -- Meeks Meadow proposed restoration

Date: July 10, 2009 Contact: Public Affairs, Cheva Heck 530-543-2608 or Rex Norman 530-543-2627
South Lake Tahoe, Calif.—The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) is seeking comments on a proposed action to restore Meeks Creek Meadow. The purpose of the project is to correct effects from past land uses, including grazing. The project would result in the restoration of the meadow and aspen stands, while maintaining existing recreational opportunities. The proposed action consists of re-opening Meeks Creek Meadow by removing dense stands of encroaching small diameter lodgepole pine across 77 acres of the project area. The lodgepole removal would be conducted using both hand treatments and low impact mechanical treatments. The project area includes stream environment zones (SEZ). SEZs that are determined to be suitable for ground-based equipment may receive low impact mechanical treatment. All other SEZs would be treated by hand crews. Lodgepole removal may be followed by low intensity prescribed fire known as a “broadcast burn.” Aspen reforestation efforts would be conducted on 6.5 acres of the project. Lastly, the project would remove structural debris in the western portion of the meadow from the former “Camp Waisu,” a Girl Scout camp that was abandoned in 1965. To provide for public safety in this popular day-use recreation area, temporary closures can be expected when heavy equipment in use. The due date for comments on the proposed action is July 31, 2009. The full Proposed Action Description is available for review at the Forest Supervisor’s Office at 35 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe Calif., and on-line at:

Annual Tahoe celeb golf tourney to benefit local charities


Tahoe Celebrity Golf Tournament to Help Feed the Hungry,
Aid Struggling Families and Support Local Children’s Programs

(South Lake Tahoe, Nev.) – Three South Lake Tahoe area non-profits will receive much needed funding to continue their work in the community from the American Century Championship ( Officials of NBC Sports, the owner of the event, announced that Tahoe Youth & Family Services, Bread & Broth, and the Boys & Girls Club of Lake Tahoe will realize support toward specifically requested needs for the coming year. The celebrity golf tournament, July 14-19 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course has raised over $3 million for national and local charities since its inception in 1990.

“We made the decision to use the American Century Championship every year as a vehicle toward real impact on important causes and we’ve pledged to always contribute to local community service initiatives,” said Jon Miller, Executive Vice President of NBC Sports. “The residents of the Lake Tahoe area are as much a part of this event as the players themselves.”

Now in its 20th year, the American Century Championship has evolved into a local and national institution. The combination of two decades of memories plus sports and entertainment superstars including Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Tony Romo, Ray Romano, Mario Lemieux, Dale Jarrett, Dan Marino, John Elway and Jerry Rice, has made it network television’s longest running celebrity golf tournament. NBC Sports will televise the second and final rounds of the event live on Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19 from noon-3 pm PT/ 3-6 pm ET both days, with Friday’s opening round on ESPN2, 4-6 pm PT/ 7-9 pm ET.

Funds raised by the American Century Championship will provide for approximately 20-25 weeks of meals for the hungry through the Bread & Broth program. Bread & Broth has provided hot meals to those in need every weekly for the past 20 years. Due to difficult economic times, the number of people served each week has increased, stretching the program’s community outreach budget to its limits.

Individual, family and group mentoring and outreach programs offered by Tahoe Youth & Family Services will get a lift by the Tahoe celebrity golf tournament with charitable funds going towards a new passenger van.
The community support group provides professional and affordable help for youth and families to support families experiencing the effects of homelessness, alcohol and drug use and teen pregnancy.

The Boys & Girls Club of Lake Tahoe offers programs and services to promote and enhance the development of South Lake Tahoe youth via educational and recreational activities. Local BGCLT kids can expect new computers from tournament donations.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) is the official charity of the American Century Championship. The tournament will also help build awareness of the LIVESTRONGâ Global Cancer Campaign, while raising funds for the LAF’s cancer survivorship initiatives. Collaborating again with the LAF on the 2009 tournament is a natural fit for American Century Investments, as that more than 40 percent of the asset management firm’s profits go to fund research for the prevention and cure of gene-based diseases.

Tickets are available in advance and daily at the gate. Prices are $15 each day for the Lake Tahoe Celebrity-Amateur on Tuesday, July 14, the practice round on Wednesday, July 15, and for the American Century Celebrity-Am on Thursday, July 16; and $25 for each tournament round, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A Season Pass for $60 provides admission for all six days of the event. Kids 10 and under are free with a paid adult. For tournament tickets, information and lodging packages, visit:

For further information, contact:
Phil Weidinger
Weidinger Public Relations
(775) 588-2412

Washoe event in July

Long before the white man called Lake Tahoe home, Washoe Indians lived here in spring and summer, while calling Gardnerville home as the temperatures dropped.
Washoe live here and in the valley year-round now. Some tribal members were born on the shores of Lake Tahoe 85 years ago.
Now in its 19th year, the Washoe people celebrate their culture at the Valhalla estate near Camp Richardson is a type of living history. The event showcases tribal living, the past and the present.
Wa She Shu It De is free from 10am-4pm, July 25-26. It will include basket making, traditional singing, dancers, drums, flutists, food and games.
“The festival is to educate the general public that indigenous people are still here,” said Wanda Bachelor of the Washoe Tribe. “The Washoe Tribe is still strong. We have been around for thousands of years. We are trying to preserve and protect who we are.”
At the festival, pictures should only be taken if permission is granted by the tribal member.

South Shore real estate numbers

Homes selling for less than $1 million are boosting the Lake Tahoe real estate market, according to a mid-year report released by Lake Tahoe-based Chase International. Sales of homes priced more than $1 million were up 7 percent in the basin, with homes more than $1 million down 41 percent from this time last year. While sales volume around the Lake was down 19 percent, units sold stayed relatively level with a 2 percent decrease from this time last year. The average price of a home in Lake Tahoe is $886,045 (down 6 percent) and the median is $540,125 (down 24 percent). South Lake Tahoe showed the biggest increase in homes sold for less than $1 million (15 percent) with units sold jumping 11 percent. Volume sold fell 15 percent and homes sold for more than a million were down 75 percent. The average home price in South Lake Tahoe is down 23 percent to $375,565 and the median price is down 20 percent to $318,000.

Celebrity Golf Tourney July 14-19

7/09 tahoe mt. news

Between Guy Fieri of Food Network fame shooting pork sandwiches to the crowd and Charles Barkley hamming it up on the links, this month’s 20th annual American Century Celebrity Golf Tournament is destined to be the antithesis of The Masters.
Serious golf will be played at Edgewood Tahoe from July 14-19, but it’s not always what the crowd is most interested in.
Barkley remains the crowd favorite, largely because he interacts with the throngs who descend upon the Stateline golf course. The week before the tournament he donated $90,000 to the survivors of the Angora Fire. This brings his total to $190,000 to aid the 254 households who lost their home in the June 2007 wildfire.

More than 80 athletes, Hollywood types and politicians are signed up to whack the little white ball. As of July 1, 20 newbies are on the docket. They range from former NBA all-star Alonzo Mourning to Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt to actor Oliver Hudson of “Rules of Engagement.”
Tickets prices are: Lake Tahoe Celeb-Am Tournament on Tuesday, $15; practice round on Wednesday, $15; Celeb-Am on Thursday, $15; American Century Championship, Friday-Sunday, $25; season pass, $60; ages 10 and under are free with a paying adult, two children per adult.
For all the details, check out

Barton health grants

In an effort to impact the health of everyone on the South Shore, the Barton Foundation is accepting applications for its inaugural health grants. The goal is to provide funding to programs and organizations that benefit underserved groups of people and/or can have the greatest impact on the health of the entire community.
Deadline to apply is Aug. 31. Grantees will be notified in September and awards given at the first Barton Philanthropy Luncheon in November.
Submit proposals at or 2092 Lake Tahoe Blvd., Ste. 600, South Lake Tahoe. For more information, call (530) 543-5612.

Beach fees increase in Tahoe

It costs more money this summer to visit most Lake Tahoe beaches.
At Pope, Baldwin, Nevada and Meek's Bay beaches, the electronic fee stations are gone. Entrance kiosk attendants will be available from 8am-9pm most of the summer to collect fees, make change and provide information. The attendants will screen canoes and kayaks for quagga mussels and other invasive species to prevent them from being introduced to Lake Tahoe.
Day-use fees will increase to $7 per vehicle to cover the cost of these services and the increasing trash removal expense and other beach maintenance. These fees also contribute to the construction of handicapped accessible restrooms at Pope and Baldwin beaches. This is the first fee increase in 10 years. Season passes to the beaches are $70. Camping fees have increased at Nevada Beach (now $28, $32 for premium sites), Fallen Leaf ($28), Meeks Bay ($23) and William Kent ($23) campgrounds. Campers no longer have to pay the $9 reservation fee. For information, contact Bob Becker at (530) 543-2600.

Barton trying to address community needs

Barton Healthcare System’s Community Advisory Committee was formed to identify unmet health needs of the communities served by Barton Memorial Hospital.
The CAC will help select this year’s $25,000 Barton health grants recipients; the Spirit of Philanthropy winner; and give input into Barton’s Community Benefit Report.
The CAC’s 15 volunteer members are: Paul Killpatrick, Lake Tahoe Community College president; John Williams, CEO Barton Healthcare; Judy Cefalu, Barton Auxiliary; John Collins, SLT Senior Center; Kindle Craig , Barton Foundation; Terry Daniels, SLT police chief; Adrian Escobedo, Lake Tahoe Unified; Michelle Feeney, Barton Community Clinic; Hector Reyes, El Dorado County Public Health; Margaret McKean , LTUSD nurse; Mike McLaughlin, attorney; Kelly Neiger, CPA; Dan Norman, doctor; Dena Schwarte, Barton Healthcare Board; Sue Shannon, principal of Whittell High School; Delicia Spees, Family Resource Center; and Michael Ward, consultant.

Van Sickle park ready to break ground

6/09 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Despite the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s objections, every entity having a role in starting work on the Van Sickle Bi-State Park says the environmental group’s complaints are not valid.
The latest to do so was the California Tahoe Conservancy board on May 29 with its unanimous approval involving its role in the 725-acre project.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and South Tahoe Public Utility District boards said yea to the project in April.
At the CTC meeting the League’s representative, Flavia Sordelet, mostly talked about a court case involving the California Environmental Quality Act and equestrian use. Of the seven audience members who spoke that day, she was the only one against it.
A manager with Forest Suites Inn is for the park, but wants to make sure trespassing and potential vandalism issues are addressed as things progress.
The CTC’s legal counsel said the League’s belief about the CEQA ruling is flawed and not relevant.
Francie Cole, an avid equestrian and local resident, spoke to how this area that starts under Heavenly’s gondola has long been popular with those on horseback.
Mark Kimbrough, executive director of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, said mountain bikers do more damage than horses.
TRT, a nonprofit, will fund the upkeep of the trail while the Nevada Division of State Parks struggles financially.
Kimbrough said a big issue with TRT users is restrooms, and that this project will add another service for people.
Work is expected to begin near the old barn this summer and be completed in phases, with the first section open July 4, 2010. Most of the park is in Nevada – 575 acres, with 150 in California. Jack Van Sickle donated the Nevada section in his father Henry’s name in 1988. CTC owns the California portion.
This is the only bi-state park in the country.

Bond money working at STHS

6/09 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

It’s a hole in the ground with an end in site – despite a soggy spring.
South Tahoe High students are expected to be learning in two new buildings in the 2010-11 school year, if not sooner.
The November ’08 voter approved $64.5 million facilities bond is paying for the work.
Joe Stewart, one of the owners of SMC Construction Co., is the general contractor. He expects about one-third of the subs to be local.
His office is alongside Herback General Engineering’s trailer in the lower parking lot of the school. Massive earth moving equipment dots the landscape where about 300 trees once stood.
Each day the terrain changes. Bigger holes are dug. More supplies brought in. Sewer lines worked on. It’s all about underground work right now.
On Day 2 of construction a sewer line was found to be 9 feet higher than it was supposed to be. Little surprises like that are normal in this business.
Besides what local property owners are paying for, the state will supply $15 million in matching funds for the high school buildings. It’s expected to arrive in district coffers by the end of the year.
This month the district should find out if it is receiving a $3.8 million joint use grant with the city of South Lake Tahoe for shared use at the high school.
Another $4 million may be in the pipeline for South Tahoe Middle School to ease overcrowding. It’s been determined the school qualifies, now it’s still a matter of winning approval for the funds that would replace 10 classrooms.
Even though construction had begun at the high school long before the ceremonious May 15 groundbreaking, that day was reserved to recognize the numerous people who helped get the district to this point.
The late Teri Allmeroth was credited with being the guiding light. With a doctorate in curriculum, Allmeroth knew facilities would create programs that would provide an education for local students that could be on par with much larger districts.
“She was the conduit, the vision,” STHS Principal Ivone Larson said.
Praise was handed out to several people that day, including the electorate. Former school board member Angela Swanson was given her due for helping secure the grants.
Teachers Frank Kovac, Nancy Dalton and Phil Williams spoke about being excited to have been in at the architectural design phase and watching a dream come true.
“This is about giving the gift of learning,” Williams said.

State budget issues crippling Tahoe entities

6/09 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Fubar doesn’t even begin to describe California’s budget fiasco.
At last glance, Sacramento was claiming a $24 billion deficit. The number keeps growing. The biggest leap came after voters on May 19 nixed all of the propositions the governor wanted to use to help bridge the gap.
This comes after a much delayed budget for 2008-09 that dealt with a $42 billion deficit.
Even though the electorate sent a resounding message to lawmakers for them to do their job – balance the budget -- whatever decisions are ultimately made are likely to affect each person living in and visiting the Golden State.
Every state park in the Lake Tahoe Basin could be impacted.
For a governor like Arnold Schwarzenegger who boasts about understanding tourism and who has been in promotional campaigns, his decisions to cutoff access to pristine land and historical structures in this region and other locales seems at a minimum to be contradictory.
His state website says, “Travel and tourism expenditures total $97.6 billion annually in California, supporting jobs for 924,000 Californians and generating $5.8 billion in state and local tax revenues.”
If there is a silver lining, it’s that the closures of 220 of the 279 state parks would occur after Labor Day.
Regionally, the state parks proposed to be shuttered are Grover Hot Springs in Markleeville, Bodie, D.L. Bliss, Emerald Bay, Donner, Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point, Mono Lake and Washoe Meadows (home to Lake Tahoe Golf Course).
A state park official told the Tahoe Mountain News last summer the Meyers golf course makes about $950,000 a year for the state parks system. It ranks between Hearst Castle and Morro Bay when it comes to generating dollars. The latter is home to the only other golf course on state park land.
This makes the proposed closing of Washoe Meadows even more curious.

South Lake Tahoe

The state is threatening to take away about $800,000 in property tax dollars that South Lake Tahoe had been counting on.
“Under Proposition 1A passed by the voters (in 2004) to protect local revenues from state take-away, the state can borrow local revenues, but must pay them back within three years. They can do so twice in any 10-year period,” explained Christine Vuletich, South Lake’s director of finance.
The city is not resting idly, though. It has applied for federal stimulus money:
$5 million for Lakeview Commons, $3.5 million for the Al Tahoe erosion control project, $6 million for the El Dorado Beach to Ski Run bike trail, and an $85 million loan for the convention center.
“Currently these projects are part of a Regional Economic Recovery Work Plan that we are now a part of. While we won’t see direct funding from this work plan; it is being sent to Washington, D.C., as a tool to see where the need is in the state of California,” Vuletich wrote. “We have heard that there may be a potential second round of stimulus and we are hoping this list may steer the direction of where funding is allocated.”
About a dozen city officials on May 29 met with Rep. Tom McClintock, the Republican who represents the California side of the Lake in Congress. Neither the public nor the press was invited to the meeting at Lake Tahoe Airport.
When Mayor Jerry Birdwell asked the congressman about the letter he wrote Jan. 30 about projects in the city that are shovel ready and ideal for stimulus money, McClintock “looked like a deer in headlights”, according to Birdwell. It’s unknown whether McClintock’s staff didn’t share the letter or the congressman chose not to read it.
However, considering an aide to McClintock met with the mayor earlier this year asking what the congressman could do for South Lake Tahoe, it seems odd McClintock didn’t know the city’s position. A copy of the letter was also given to McClintock when he was here last month.
Birdwell’s assessment is the federal official’s only interest is possibly helping the city secure some of the $6 millions needed to fix the dilapidated asphalt from the runway to the airport terminal.
McClintock’s office was not available for comment as of press time.
For the time being, the city has no intention of curtailing police, fire or snow removal services. Those were the three big issues that led to the city to being incorporated in 1965 and seem to be off-limits.
The city has cut the capital improvement budget by about $1 million. This means the roads will stay riddled with potholes.
A reduction in staff through layoffs and early retirements is under way. Further staff cuts are likely as revenues keep missing their market. After all, the council during a recession in October approved a budget with anticipated revenue growth. Each month Vuletich updates the council on revenues and expenses – with more red than black in the report.

El Dorado County

The Board of Supervisors is having workshops for the 2009-10 budget on June 8, June 10, June 11, June 15, June 17 and June 18, with adoption tentatively scheduled for June 23. Each meeting is at 9am at 330 Fair Lane in Placerville.
"The failure of the propositions was no surprise. They failed to address the structural problems within the state budget," Supervisor Norma Santiago said. "Nonetheless, the county is faced with ongoing challenges in balancing its budget. And, in my opinion, the county has already made significant cuts in its work force. Any additional cuts would only lead to further degradation of the delivery of services and programs that the state mandates we deliver. The challenge before us is how the county can make operational improvements to reduce costs."
Supervisors are expected to look at their own salaries.
About 200 positions have been cut in the county, hiring freezes are part of the mix. Mandatory and voluntary furlough programs are in place.
Although future cuts are not known, consolidation of offices is having a ripple affect. Social service agencies in the basin are up in arms that Child Protective Services is for the most part moving to Placerville this month. Tahoe sheriff’s deputies may be cut. That department, like many others, is already bare bones. The state threat to take away more money is just as real for El Dorado County as it is for the city. “We are not only concerned about the short-term impact of a Prop. 1A suspension, but also concerned about the long-term impact given the state's track record of paying back what it has swept from local governments,” Mike Applegarth, the county’s senior administrative analyst, wrote. “A Prop. 1A suspension could result in a $6.3 million dollar hit to El Dorado County's general fund. It is conceivable that if the Legislature exempts certain categories of local government from a Prop. 1A suspension, the impact to El Dorado County could be even greater.
“While a Prop. 1A suspension has the potential to significantly compound local government financial difficulties and compromise local public services, it does nothing to permanently improve the state's long-term fiscal sustainability. It amounts to another fiscal Band-Aid on a state's hemorrhaging budget.”
Lake Tahoe Unified

The school board has drawn a line in the sand – keep class size reduction, music and physical education.
“That is kids,” LTUSD Superintendent Jim Tarwater said of those programs. “We are not going to give that up.”
In February, the state took away $1.2 million from the K-12 school district. In May, another $800,000 was rescinded.
The $1.2 million is for this school year and next. Cutting just more than four full-time positions and reducing categorical funds by 20 percent addresses that budgetary setback.
“When they give us flexibility in all the restrictive programs, what they said is ‘we don’t care about those programs’,” Tarwater said. “We know they won’t reinstate those programs.”
Further staff cuts are possible. It may mean fewer instructional aides, custodians, vice principals and/or counselors.
Staff account for about 82 percent of the district’s budget. Some districts put personnel at 85 percent, so LTUSD believes it has wiggle room.
The $800,000 the district has to cut will be backfilled with the $1 million in federal stimulus money it was to receive. But this is a one-time fix and won’t help if the state keeps cutting or continues to fund at May 2009 levels.
Tarwater knows the district could do without painting or repaving for a year to save a couple hundred thousand dollars. Bus routes could be changed, though some students already ride for quite some time.
Kids are being impacted immediately with much of summer school going by the wayside.
Looking at ways to cut the utility bill are possible, but when the district office and others are more than 40 years old, inefficiencies abound and are costly to fix. A savings on things like utilities is likely once the bond money is spent on new buildings and upgrades to others.
Although classified and certificated unions agreed to a two-year contract without a pay increase, it’s unknown if a reduction in pay may have to be talked about down the road. The steps and ladders pay hikes are intact. As is normal in K-12 districts, automatic raises are given based on the number of years of experience and education level. So, even though a contractual across the board pay raise is not part of the equation, some employees of the district are continuing to see their paychecks increase.

Community college

The governor’s latest idea means Lake Tahoe Community College would have to cut $362,346 from this year’s budget and $1.3 million from the 2009-10 budget.
“These cuts would come out of the following areas: basic skills, Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education (CARE), counseling, placement and assessment, disabled students programs and services, extended opportunities programs and services, instructional equipment, part-time faculty compensation, and scheduled maintenance,” the college said in a press release.
The budget, like at the K-12, city and county levels, is likely to be a regular agenda item for this board of education at each meeting.
Students should expect by the fall to see fewer course offerings, larger classes and possibly higher fees. Fees are set by the state and currently are at $13 per unit. The Legislative Analysts Office has tossed out the possibility of $60/per unit.
How colleges are funded, a student’s fees don’t cover the cost of a class, so raising fees or offering more classes are not the easy solutions.
Many courses limit the number of students – like labs – which can only function with a finite number of people.
The College Council, which consists of faculty, classified staff, administration, and students, met May 29 about the budget dilemma. Eventually they will make a recommendation to the board.
Another state take-away may be how PE is funded. The state is considering funding at the noncredit rate, which is much less than the credit rate. LTCC, which has a massive phys ed program, hasn’t even crunched those numbers.
Slashing programs is hard to do.
“You can’t just eliminate programs with students in midstream,” college spokeswoman Christina Proctor said.
Plus, doing so could affect the base mission of community colleges, which is to prepare students to transfer to a four-year institution.
The idea of being closed Fridays has been talked about. Its doubtful night classes will be curtailed based on LTCC’s student population.
Even though a 1.5 percent pay increase for staff is still on the table, the board has the ability to yank that based on what the state does. It’s plausible to see boards across the state begin renegotiating contracts.
The irony is that when community colleges are growing in numbers, the state cuts are projected to affect enrollment. The Community College League of California estimates a loss of 9 percent or 623 full-time students at LTCC.

Lakeview Commons shovel ready

6/09 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

When the dozen property owners deeded what is now known as Lakeview Commons to El Dorado County, three stipulations were made: no private commercial use, restrooms will always be free and no new buildings on the east side of the property within 750 feet of the centerline of Highway 50.
“I’m here because I made a promise to the group of people who bought the property in the 1920s. Those people put up the money because they wanted a place to get away from the heat in Placerville,” explained Bill Johnson.
Johnson, a member of one of the South Shore’s pioneer families, splits his time between South Lake Tahoe and the West Slope.
Those dozen people, with Johnson being one of them, bought much of what is the 56-acre project from the Bliss family for about $12,500 in the 1920s. Now the county owns it. South Lake Tahoe has a 55-year lease which expires in about 14 years.
“I think in the next 14 years the city will gain ownership. It should be city property,” Johnson told the council May 19. His parents once owned much of the South Shore, and he along with his brother and sister still are large land owners.
Johnson attended the City Council meeting because Lakeview Commons was on the agenda. Besides ensuring the original intent of the agreement is upheld, Johnson gave the council and audience a history lesson that captivated all who were listening.
Johnson touched on how this land was mired in controversy between the county and city when he was on the Board of Supervisors in 1968.
Even though food will be sold and non-motorized boat storage available for a fee, Johnson said because the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will run them it does not conflict with the no commercial use clause.

Moving forward

Lakeview Commons is expected to be on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency agenda June 24.
The California Tahoe Conservancy may approve more money for Lakeview Commons at its July meeting. But with state bond money frozen, it’s not known when allocated dollars will begin flowing to their destinations.
Project manager Deb Vreeland hopes to have permits, including Caltrans and Lahontan, in hand later this summer. Permits are for the first phase that mostly encompasses lakeside improvements – a fraction of the entire 56-acre project.
Caltrans is in most discussions to coordinate its upcoming projects with ones that overlap with Lakeview Commons. Drainage from Highway 50 is a big issue.
“If we could make this year’s construction season, it would be glorious,” Vreeland said.
The beach will have access for people with disabilities, terraced landscaping, a cantilevered walkway and improved bike trail from Lakeview Avenue to Rufus Allen Boulevard.
A plethora of bathrooms near El Dorado beach may occur because Lakeview Commons’ is planning a two-story facility in the general area -- part toilets, part non-motorized boat storage. It may be a platinum-rated Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design latrine.
Vreeland told the City Council in March that those bathrooms are going forward no matter what the city does.
South Lake Tahoe has a $520,000 grant from the Department of Boating and Waterways to build a restroom facility in the area. This spring DBW agreed the city could move the restrooms to the city’s second choice which is to the other end of the triangular piece of property out of the view corridor.
The city is also going after a $200,000 DBW grant from non-motorized boating money. Lakeview Commons could benefit is if part of the DBW grant could fund the boat storage building.
To aid with the lack of parking dilemma, the city is in the preliminary stages of drawing plans for about 50 spaces on a parcel it owns adjacent to the boat trailer parking lot at El Dorado Beach. Coverage issues with TRPA need to be addressed.

Lake Tahoe Museum gets make-over

6/09 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

It was definitely more than a typical spring cleaning.
Lake Tahoe Historical Museum is like a brand new facility thanks to the countless hours historical society volunteers put in as well as the couple thousand hours of work provided by members of local Carpenters Union 1789.
Work started in January on the building next to the senior center in South Lake Tahoe. Artifacts were stored for safe keeping. Inventory was taken.
By April the mostly female museum crew began tearing down walls.
The goal was to have new flooring, walls and refurbished exhibits in place for when the museum opened its doors Memorial Day weekend. And most of it was.
But it wouldn’t have been ready for the public without those eight carpenters (Roger Thomas, Robert Samorano, Chad Brunyan, Henry Smart, Blaine Johnson, Paul Monio, Leo Collins and Tom Guziejka) who donated their time and tools to restore apart of Lake Tahoe’s history for generations to come.
Peggy Bourland, Diane Johnson and Lynne Bajuk are three of the major players at the museum. Walk in and one of them is likely to be working – for free. It’s the work of volunteers that has kept this often overlooked gem of the South Shore humming along since 1968.
Walking through the old building is like walking back in history – only now the floor is new, the walls are refurbished, paint is fresh and lighting is better. It had been more than a quarter century since significant improvements had been made.
“We will add what was not out on the floor before,” Johnson said. “We will increase storytelling – the story of Tahoe.”
The Celio Ranch exhibit remains the largest display. A bit of the old dairy farm is there for all to see. A four-page handout tells how the family first arrived in the Lake Valley area in 1857.
Exhibits will rotate. Before now things had been rather static. Plus, with the carpenters’ assistance, rolling platforms were built to more easily move pieces.
An exhibit on camping is planned. In the late 1800s and early 1900s men wore ties and women dresses around the campfire.
Computer software that the Smithsonian uses has been installed to help categorize items. Everything that can be scanned will be so the history is in digital format. This also allows the public easier access to Tahoe’s history. A website is in the works.
Movies play on the new flat screen television, giving visitors a deeper experience.
The bookstore has been expanded to include works about Tahoe as well as Bodie, Nevada, Placerville and other nearby towns.
With donations continually rolling in, showcasing more items will be easy to do.
On May 23 the museum received a call from a couple who had bought the Evans’ log cabin on Tamarack Avenue in the Bijou area. That cabin was built with logs from the Baldwin Estate cabins at Fallen Leaf Lake that were disassembled by the U.S. Forest Service.
The new owners brought in hats from the 1940s, a notebook the museum hopes to return to the family, Owen Evans’ uniform from the Forest Service and other relics of days gone by. Evans died in December. His widow, Esther, still lives in South Lake.
Lake Tahoe Museum has information going back to when the Washoe were the predominant residents. The Lake’s rich boating history is told through artifacts and on film. Old lodging establishments like the Tallac Hotel come to life. Sterling silver from the era shines in glass cases.
What the museum group wants is to expand on the region’s political history, the notorious winter of 1952, the airport, churches, schools, the environment, clear cutting – Tahoe’s story. More on Snowshoe Thompson is planned. The museum has an original letter of his.
An August celebration is planned to mark the 150th anniversary of Osgood’s Toll House, which has been placed behind the museum. Originally it was located at what is known today as North Upper Truckee Road and Highway 50. Nemi Osgood charged 5 cents per animal and a fluctuating rate for people to pass his gate.
This summer the museum is free. Another goal is to be open year-round. For more information, call (530) 541-5458.

R&D firm working on propulsion system

By Kathryn Reed

When Greg Stevenson moved to Lake Tahoe full time in 1990 he heard stories about automobile emissions contributing to the Lake’s declining clarity. Then he asked what watercraft does to the purity of the water.
“That stirred a hornet’s nest,” said Stevenson, who is president of GSE Inc., an experimental research and development firm based in South Lake Tahoe. “I made a White Paper describing all the propulsion systems on Lake Tahoe and identified the rate for emissions per rate of horsepower. Jet Skis were way off the charts.”
This led to the ban of two-stroke motors on the Lake. However, today two-strokes are cleaner than four-strokes.
What irks Stevenson to this day is that everything else in the paper was ignored. His research shows wooden boats are horrible when it comes to emissions.
“We keep having endless studies from UC Davies about water quality, but almost no proactive solutions,” Stevenson said.
He’d like to see regional universities have a marine craft competition to see who can design the most efficient, low emission vehicle.
“A lot of practical things can happen. I think the consumer is willing to go along if you give them options for things with better performance,” Stevenson said.

Overcoming obstacles

Stevenson has been operating out of the 15,500-square-foot former Barkley Meats building on Industrial Avenue since August 2007 after moving from Incline.
The mechanical engineer who grew-up in the aerospace business formed GSE in 1983, incorporating in 1994 to focus on heavy fuel engine development for the military.
He’s back butting heads with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency – this time over the pitch on the roof of his building. The agency and city are requiring he have a multi-pitch roof, which he says has tripled the cost.
With his attention and financial resources focused on the roof, work has slowed down. Disgust fills his voice.
“We were going great guns last fall,” Stevenson said.
Between TRPA and the Obama administration, his workload has diminished.
Much of the work he and five employees did was R&D stuff for the Defense Department. GSE develops propulsion systems for unmanned aircraft.
Even though a slew of government programs have been approved, they are in their infancy and bids are not being sought.
“The new administration is putting funding into renewable energy instead of defense oriented. It is a significant change in the baseline of what we were doing,” Stevenson said. “But it’s all in the right direction in extracting the utmost energy.”
With education outreach likely to be a significant component of future state and federal contracts, GSE is positioning itself to be a player by talking to area schools now.

Nuts and bolts

The focus of GSE is research and development on advanced propulsion systems.
“There are an awful lot of companies in the Bay Area inventing different means of renewable fuels, but almost no one in the commercial side optimizing the combustion process,” Stevenson said.
He said the need now is to get the most efficiency out of renewables. His proposal before the California Energy Commission would provide clean energy off the grid.
“Ultimately, every time you have a controlled burn you could make it into energy and not have it go into the atmosphere,” Stevenson explained. Cogeneration is a big part of what his company is focusing on.
With projections being that in the next 10 to 20 years California will use twice as much electricity, the race is on to find a new way to provide that energy. Combined heating and power (CHP) technology is one way. Biomass is an example of this. Instead of controlled burns, incinerate trees by controlled combustion, extract the energy and have smokeless emissions.
When it comes to automobiles, Stevenson said the quandary is emissions standards in California, which are the strictest in the nation, are in conflict with the most efficient engines being developed in Europe.
Another issue is that when scientists do figure out how to extract energy from a renewable fuel seldom has an engine been designed that can use the energy.
Stevenson thinks some of the military applications he has been around could make life on the frontline for firefighters better. He said the basic diesel equipment firefighters use is 6 to 8 pounds per horsepower, while the military shoots for 1 pound.
This means a 40 horsepower water pump could weigh 300 pounds. If it were converted to military standards, a mobile 40 to 50 pound device could be created – allowing firefighters to be deployed with water on their backs to fight fires.
“We have made breakthroughs on the military side that should show up eventually in the commercial sector,” Stevenson said. “I always had in mind that a lot more efficiency could come out of today’s propulsion systems.”
Stevenson gives specifics about the equipment in his facility and their applications on his website,

LTUSD's healthy kids survey

By Kathryn Reed

South Lake Tahoe’s kids aren’t so healthy. And they don’t feel safe.
Results from a statewide survey taken last fall show an increase in tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use by some Lake Tahoe Unified students.
Students in grades five, seven, nine and 11 take the survey every other year. It’s a way for districts to know what problems students are facing and identify what programs might need to be put in place to address those concerns.
Lisa Huard, the safe schools coordinator whose position will be eliminated this summer, believes students are honest with their responses based on information the schools have, as well as the number of suspensions, expulsions and arrests.
In 2004, 5 percent of the seventh-graders said they regularly smoke tobacco, in 2006 the ninth-graders (so the same class) had 14 percent say they were users, while in 2008 as 11th-graders 22 percent were lighting up.
More members of the class of 2010 are drinking alcohol and smoking pot as they get older. As seventh-graders, about 10 percent were imbibing, 32 percent at ninth-graders and 44 percent this school year.
When it comes to marijuana, 7 percent of next year’s graduating class took a hit as seventh-graders, a quarter of them did as ninth-graders and 36 percent do today.
“Those same children report a decrease in caring relationships with a teacher or other adults at the schools over the years, a decrease in high expectation from a teacher or other adult at their school, and a decrease of opportunities in meaningful participation at their school,” Huard said.
Huard says the way to stop the escalation in drug use and risky behavior is to start the education at an earlier grade level. She would like to see schools be less test oriented and more student oriented.
“Schools in general are focusing on the test scores and not focusing on the life scores of our youth,” Huard said.
South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Terry Daniels also believes teaching kids sooner rather than later is important. “Energy needs to go to preventive programs,” he said, adding that he supports efforts being made in the schools.
From the 2008 survey:
51 percent feel safe at school all of the time;
40 percent of seventh-graders, 31 percent of ninth-graders and 22 percent of 11th-graders are afraid of being beaten up;
79 percent of fifth-graders, 68 percent of seventh, 53 percent ninth and 55 percent 11th-graders ate breakfast on test day.
According to the report, “Students who attend school hungry or malnourished may experience compromised health, well-being, and school performance.”
Huard believes it takes the entire community to set an example and be responsible for youth. Why didn’t you call the cops when the kids down the street had a party? Why didn’t you talk to the parents? Why did you give a dirty look to the kids congregated on the corning smoking cigarettes instead of telling them about lung and throat cancer? Why did you buy a six-pack for your kid brother? Those are questions Huard is asking. When she doesn’t have to ask them anymore, the survey results are likely to change.

SLT General Plan seems uninspiring

6/09 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

None of the above. That was the option of the nearly two dozen interested residents who spent a Thursday night figuring out what the blueprint for South Lake Tahoe should like for the next 20 years.
Three alternatives were presented at the May 21 meeting. All groups nixed the first option, which is essentially the status quo. Some of the six groups wanted a hybrid of two of the alternatives.
Choice No. 2 is to focus on the Y and Stateline, with little attention paid to the entire town that exists between those five miles.
Option three spreads out the commercial floor area throughout the city. (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency rules use CFA instead of traditional zoning like commercial and residential.) Social gathering areas would also be interspersed in this scenario.
Everyone seemed to agree the town needs to be more pedestrian and bike friendly.
Not all agreed on the need to boost the permanent population.
Discrepancies occurred over the need for affordable housing, despite state law.
Larry Mintier with Mintier Harnish is the consultant doing the general plan update. He and his associate clearly favored alternative No. 3 during their initial presentation. Information provided in newsletters is slanted toward that option, too.
The May meeting was the last public meeting before the City Council votes on its preference this month. The next step is to prepare the environmental documents. Those will come back for public comment. The final general plan is expected to be voted on late this year or early 2010.
The city wants to adopt its general plan before TRPA figures out the regional plan. The thinking is the city then has leverage over the federal agency.
More information is at

Lori Gaskin leaves LTCC for South Bay

6/09 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

For the past year, Lori Gaskin has been the consummate professional. That’s not to say she wasn’t the previous 16 years. It’s just that the vice president of academic affairs had to work for the man whose job she wanted as well as for the board that denied her that opportunity.
President can now be inserted before her name. Gaskin takes over the helm of West Valley College in Saratoga on Aug 3. Her last day at Lake Tahoe Community College is June 19.
The Silicon Valley school, with 12,000 students, is about four times larger than LTCC.
“They have a lot of strong programs … a lot of innovation, vibrancy,” Gaskin said. “It will be a fun place to work. It seems along the path of life this is the next right step.”
The move will mean living closer to her son, who will be a senior at Stanford University in the fall. It also means a temporary separation from her husband, David, who will keep his job with the state of Nevada.
“I have the best family in the world. They understand the need for me to grow and pursue professional opportunities,” Gaskin said.
She foresees the day when they sell their Tahoe house. Gaskin already knows she won’t miss the snow. It’s the people she expects to miss the most.
Instead of taking credit for accomplishments during her 17-year tenure at LTCC, Gaskin said achievements like the growth in programs is to be shared with the entire institution.
Taking over for her will be Susan Middleton who is dean of student services. Middleton plans to retire at the end of next school year. This gives the college a year to figure out if it can live without the dean position, having those duties absorbed by others with a cost savings of more than $100,000.

Recipe -- El Dorado County's winning wines

6/09 tahoe mt. news

“As for awards, it’s worth noting that despite El Dorado region’s size, wines made from grapes grown here win a significantly disproportionate share of medals from the California State Fair Wine Competition and others,” said Jolaine Collins, spokeswoman for the El Dorado Winery Association. “El Dorado wineries consistently bring home medal winners from competitions throughout the state and beyond. As you know, our region has long been noted for producing reds that thrive in warmer climates, especially Zinfandel – and, increasingly, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Barbera.”
I sipped several of these award winning wines during Passport Weekend in April. Many of them are still available in tastings room. If you can’t find it at the winery, I was told people are selling winning vintages on eBay. However, a new crop of award winners is bound to be forthcoming after the Aug. 21-Sept. 7 California State Fair.
That event along with the San Francisco Chronicle competition, are two worth bragging about. In 2008, El Dorado County wineries won 19 medals at the Chronicle competition – 4 percent of the total.
Sue and I sampled Jodar Vineyard’s 2005 Cabernet that was a double gold medal winner in this year’s Chronicle event. The $22 bottle is worth every penny.
At Miraflores, besides awards at competitions, the 2005 and 2006 Zin each earned 90 points in Wine Spectator, and the 2005 Syrah Methode Ancienne earned 92 points from Wine Enthusiast. These are trade publications whose rating systems are well regarded. In July ’08, Miraflores was featured in the Enthusiast after being written about by Spectator the previous month.
“Methode ancienne” means the grapes are stomped by foot, not machine.
Tasting the 2005 and 2006 Zins side-by-side, we found the younger one to be much bigger. But both (each is $22) would be good to have in your personal cellar.
Conti Estate, Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards’ 2006 Fair Play Reserve Barbera earned best of California double gold at the 2008 state fair. Unfortunately the winery is sold-out of it. During Passport weekend, barrel tasting of the 2007 was offered. It should be available in the bottle this month.
A barrel tasting we particularly liked was the 2007 Zin at Latcham. That, too, should be in bottle form this summer.
Vintner Margaret Latcham served a dip that day which included her wine. It’s perfect for any summer gathering – especially with an El Dorado County wine in hand.

Latcham Vineyards’ Sun Dried Tomato Spread

1 lb. cream cheese
½-3/4 C sun dried tomatoes
½ C sour cream
Latcham Barbera or Zin
Pine nuts

Soften cream cheese in mixer. Slowly add enough wine until cheese is light and fluffy. Add tomatoes and continue to blend. Top with roasted pine nuts and serve with crackers.

Fireworks back on for Labor Day

6/09 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Lake Tahoe isn’t reason alone to travel to the mountains. People come for special events. Just ask a hotel manager.
To ensure people keep visiting the South Shore during Labor Day weekend, the South Lake Tahoe Tourism Improvement District voted to allocate the $65,000 needed to keep the fireworks show.
The unanimous decision came a few weeks after the South Lake Tahoe City Council voted 4-1 to not fund the pyrotechnic display. The city had never funded this specific event before.
After that meeting, LTVA Executive Director Carol Chaplin questioned whether the council understands how large of a constituency the lodging properties are in the city.
The TID was formed a few years ago by lodging operators and vacation rental agencies in South Lake Tahoe. Nevada properties are not part of the group. Guests pay $2/night at hotels and $3 at vacation rentals.
Last year about $1.5 million was raised. This year that figure is estimated to drop to $1.1 million.
Part of the money is given to Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, part is budgeted as needed for last-minute advertising and some goes to special events.
Jerry Bindel, chairman of the TID board, pointed out at the April council meeting when the fireworks funding was nixed, that fireworks aren’t just a tourism event – that locals are on his beach at Lakeland Village on July 4 and Labor Day.
Tom Davis, part owner of Tahoe Keys Resort and marketing employee at Horizon-MontBleu, told the council, “Special events are measurables.”
Chris Minnes said the hotel he managed last year was full during Opening Days Lake Tahoe in 2008. The weekends before and after had a 40 percent occupancy.
The TID board is expected to go before the City Council soon to seek approval to raise the per night fee by 50 percent, or $3 for hotel guests and $4.50 at rentals. The board would also like to bring vacation rentals by owners into their mix.
“We will assess our own and take care of ourselves,” Bindel said. “With the city decreasing or eliminating LTVA funds altogether, we need to cover that hurdle. What is at-risk is special events.”
Raising the rates would fill coffers in lean times. It also means this money from guests goes to the tourism board and not into the city’s general fund.
The money collected from guests via the transient occupancy tax goes directly to the city. TOT, which is down 36 percent or nearly $1 million from what was budgeted this fiscal year, is one of the city’s main revenue sources.

Resolution in wrong felled tree caper

6/09 tahoe mt. news

Righting the wrong of the felled 30-foot fir tree has come in the form of a nearly 12-foot mountain ash.
Gareth Harris took it upon himself on behalf of and at the expense of the Rotary Club to replace the tree that was wrongly cut down by his group. Harris is also fire marshal for Lake Valley. The Christmas Valley residence is in his fire district.
“There were mistakes made, no question about it,” Harris said. “There was no intent to do anything wrong on anyone’s part.”
Rotary spent a Saturday helping seniors and disabled people with defensible space issues by cutting down trees and limbs that posed a fire threat.
Billie Jo and Paul McAfee were mistakenly on that list because they had helped with the senior wood project as volunteers. Even so, they don’t believe the tree posed a fire danger.
But the couple is happy with how Harris made amends. They are also complimentary of Jason Arnold with the Nevada Fire Safe Council who stopped by to express his regret for the error.
Gareth said his chipping crews will be out this month to finish up the Rotary’s project.

Seasonal farmers market on South Shore

By Kathryn Reed

Cherries, peaches and a slew of greens are being harvested on West Slope farms and elsewhere in California for the annual farmers’ market that opened June 2.
With the American Legion not replacing its building this season, it means the fresh fruits and veggies are being sold from the usual spot on Highway50 from 8am to 1pm each Tuesday until Oct. 13.
Even though many farms south of Stockton are fretting over the amount of water being allocated, most of the growers who come to South Lake are not in that bind. Many of the local providers get their water from El Dorado Irrigation District.
“I was a little surprised they are not cutting us back. They watch the water and tell us when to irrigate,” explained Jim Coalwell, who runs the market and owns the Red Shack in Placerville with his wife, Lois.
For years EID has used a gauge about 3-feet deep on farms to measure the water content of the soil. Regulators then dole out water and tell farmers when to irrigate.
Just like last year, an April frost hit the Placerville area crops. Last year pears were hit hard. This year cherries and peaches were affected by the spring freeze.
“It was more severe that we first thought,” Coalwell said in May.
Cherries will still be available, but not in the abundance that was planned. Fewer El Dorado County peaches may make it to market as well. Some pears are expected to have some visible damage from the cold temps.
“They have frost rings, which are rust looking. A lot of them won’t be as good looking, but it won’t have anything to do with flavor,” Coalwell said of the pear crop.
With how frosts settle in, often it’s the trees at the lower elevations on a farm that get hit harder than the ones on top of the hill.
Vegetables were not affected by the spring weather. Farmers who lost tomatoes have replanted, so it means a couple weeks delay before the produce is ready to sell.
As is true each season, what comes to market is based on the growing season. Tomatoes are likely to show up mid-month. Corn will be after that.
Overall, Coalwell said last summer’s market was good despite a slow down. He blames the economy and layoffs for fewer sales. He has high hopes for this season.
“Generally speaking if people look around at these markets, there are good deals,” Coalwell said.
Plus, the product is far superior to any grocery store.
“At least you know where it’s coming from,” Coalwell said. “The main thing is you need to know your grower. If you don’t trust them, you shouldn’t buy from them.”
Most people shopping in a grocery store don’t realize how far produce is shipped in from. Most countries don’t have the stringent rules about chemicals that California has.
Pete Weed, a local chef, is serving barbecue pork and chicken this year. The crepe people have a new vending vehicle which should be better for them and their clients. Coalwell said other additions may be incorporated, but for the most part the same growers are setting up their tables.

Improvements at Explore Tahoe

6/09 tahoe mt. news unedited

By Kathryn Reed

Where’s the tallest mountain in the basin? Where’s that mountain with the cross of snow? Where are the tributaries of Lake Tahoe?
With a push of a button the answer will light up.
Before the throngs of visitors start arriving on the South Shore, Explore Tahoe expects to have a three-dimensional map of Lake Tahoe installed on the floor. It will be about 6 feet by 12 feet.
“We decided when we opened to not spend all the money,” explained Gary Moore, director of South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation. “We need more touch feely stuff for adults and we need more for children.”
Explore Tahoe opened in July 2007 as an urban trailhead in a city owned building that was originally designed to solely be a transit center. It’s a partnership the U.S. Forest Service and Heavenly.
For A few years the Heavenly Village property sat empty. Still, the city was paying about $160,000 a year to cover Park Avenue Development Management Agency costs and utilities. The cost of heated sidewalks adds up.
Some contend the building is not really a transit center. Those who are involved in running and funding the site say just the opposite.
“It is definitely used as a transit center,” said Nick Haven, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency transportation guru. “From my viewpoint it is a transit center and a very effective transit center. It gets locals to work and provides visitors interpretive information and points them to transit to explore Tahoe.”
California Tahoe Conservancy came up with the initial $1.4 million grant to get Explore Tahoe off the ground. The new displays, outside signs and flagpoles are costing the agency about $141,000.
South Lake Tahoe officials met with California officials before construction began to ensure state transportation dollars could be used in this manner.
“We think it’s a better use of the structure because it wasn’t trying to be a single function,” said Ray Lacey, CTC deputy director.
BlueGo buses are a regular fixture in the transit area. Tickets for the local bus system are available at Explore Tahoe. Amtrak buses pick up and drop off riders there. Ski shuttles and Nifty 50 Trolley are seasonal transit options.
Forest Service permits are sold there. Information is provided to people about how to access trails, beaches and other destinations via public transit.
It costs $128,000 to run the facility that is open 364 days a year. This covers one full-time employee, two part-timers, utilities, maintenance, outreach to schools, ranger and interpretive programs, special events, wireless services, supplies and other items.
Explore Tahoe generates about $91,000 a year in revenues from renting the upstairs to Heavenly Mountain Resort, leasing seven parking spots to Cecil’s Market, selling products and donations
At the May 5 City Council meeting, the partnership with Tahoe Heritage Foundation was canceled. Now Parks and Rec is completely responsible for all merchandise sold at Explore Tahoe, which could mean more revenues.
For more information about Explore Tahoe, go to

Do It Center disturbing status quo

6/09 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

On June 16 the City Council is expected to resolve the Do It Center dilemma.
The Planning Commission said go ahead, move into the building that housed South Shore Motors. Robert Cosmi and Peggy Cocores, who own neighboring Scotty’s Hardware, have appealed that decision.
Competition is not a reason to deny the special use permit, according to city officials. Scotty’s and Ace Hardware already operate on Lake Tahoe Boulevard. Meek’s has a store in South Lake and Meyers. Other hardware stores exist within a short drive.
Councilman Bill Crawford finds a bit of discrepancy between Do It Center and Broc’s Puppies when it comes to emotion and practicality being part of decision-making.
“The Planning Commission approved the ordinance to close the pet shop. This is a matter of conscious and everyone says so,” Crawford said. “Broc’s and company had all the business licenses. They conform.
“Something is wrong with the procedure that on one hand you can’t exercise judgment if we have too many hardware stores, and then on the other you exercise moral judgment about puppy stores.”
The Planning Commission heard the Do It Center issue because it requires a special use permit. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is the keeper of the rules. This parcel’s allowable uses are at
Councilman Bruce Grego questions whether traffic will be an issue for the proposed chain hardware store.
Special use documents say a car dealership and hardware store attract similar numbers of customers. If that were true, the car dealership might still be in business.
“I think everyone votes their conscious,” Grego said. He said if Do It Center were so cut and dry, then staff could approve it. “I think we are going to have an interesting discussion if we have land use discussion on both sides telling us the law and what we can and cannot do.”
At the Planning Commission, Lew Feldman of Feldman Shaw in Zephyr Cove represented the out of town Do It Center owners. Michael Johnson of the South Lake firm Rollston, Henderson, Crabb & Johnson filed the appeal on behalf of Scotty’s.

DCSD has a full plate

6/09 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Seventeen Nevada K-12 superintendents are expected this month to decide the fate of athletics throughout the state, as well as the entire South Shore.
With South Tahoe High being part of the NIAA (Nevada Interscholastic Athletics Association), its fate and Whittell High’s are tied together.
California schools in the NIAA are not represented in the superintendents’ roundtable discussions.
After the May superintendents’ meeting, Douglas County School District’s Carol Lark said she wanted to consult with her principals and athletic directors about the potential realignment of athletic divisions before voting on consolidation.
Donny Borges, STHS athletic director, advised the LTUSD school board last month the reduction of divisions could bode well for the Vikings. However, particulars about how it might affect junior varsity sports have not been forthcoming.
The NIAA, like all educational entities, is trying to save a few bucks. Reduction of referees at games, fewer games and varying travel distances are all being discussed. The elimination of sports, so far, has not come to light. However, with the California budget crisis, that is a potential reality for many schools.

Whittell High

No matter what the superintendents and NIAA board decide, Whittell will be without a vice principal in the fall. Dan Wold’s job has been eliminated. He is likely to be working in the valley.
“What we did is we changed that position from a vice principal to athletic director,” Lark explained. “It’s related to the budget.”
As of press time, the district was interviewing for the AD job. The AD can discipline students, but cannot supervise staff.
It’s unlikely the high school will go to a four-day school week in the fall. The issue was pulled by Lark from the May 20 school board agenda. She said this was because the proposal had two calendars; one similar to what was presented to the board earlier in the spring and a hybrid “that was more complex.” Lark said it’s possible a no-Friday school week could be implemented in spring 2010.
“We still need to survey the entire community. It would affect families at Zephyr Cove as well,” Lark said.
Random drug testing of all DCSD high school students involved in sports and activities outside the classroom like band and speech will start in the fall. Parents of students who would not be tested can request their child be tested. The urine tests will not be done on the two lower grades at Whittell.
Lark said with 34 expulsions in the 2008-09, administrators decided something had to be done to deter drug use since the bulk of expulsions were drug related.
“One that keeps coming up is ecstasy, but an increasing number of kids are abusing the medicine cabinet and over the counter (drugs). Kids are drinking NyQuil and Robitussin,” Lark said.
The tests can also reveal if alcohol and nicotine are being used.
“The whole idea is not to be punitive. It is designed to provide our student with a deterrent,” Lark said. “They need to know we care enough to monitor.
It costs about $27 per test, with donations from athletic organizations funding the bulk of the program. Tests will be done at least every other week.
With some of the November bond money being spent this summer to replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Whittell, fingers are crossed it will eliminate the persistent radon issue at the school. Problem rooms will be retested after the HVAC system is in place.

County messing with CPS

6/09 tahoe mt. news unedited

By Kathryn Reed

A flurry of meetings has resulted in Child Protective Services caseworkers not being relocated to Placerville.
A May 21 letter dictated most South Lake Tahoe-based CPS employees work out of Placerville as of June 20. That letter created an outcry the West Slope clearly heard.
“I have notified people from welfare, union stewards and CPS we are rescinding the letter (on June 8), but it is not off the table,” El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago said. This gives the county an out in case the financial situation deteriorates.
Santiago met privately with about a couple dozen Department of Health Services employees the night of June 3 . Acting director of DHS, Jan Walker-Conroy, has also been meeting with staff to clarify the situation. Walker-Conroy did not return calls.
Workers are staying for now, but that doesn’t mean everyone is happy with the work they do. Tahoe Victims of CPS has a permit to protest in front of CPS offices on Silver Dollar Avenue on June 12 at 1pm. Permits are being sought for a July 1 8am-noon protest outside family court at the Tahoe branch of the El Dorado County Courthouse.
“We have numerous individuals come to us about abuse of children and who have been recklessly endangered,” said Kim Cotter, a concerned activist.
Ernie Claudio, another activist and former Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteer, said the necessary papers have been filed for the grand jury to investigate CPS.
Claudio told the Board of Supervisors on June 2 about CPS issues.
“My plan is to go to every Board of Supervisors’ meeting and bring people who have horror stories,” Claudio said.

Employee issues

Santiago said the consolidation of county offices at the Lake is necessary to save money. That’s why CPS workers were told to work from Placerville. The county rents or leases a number of offices in South Lake. Now the county will look to have departments share space in Tahoe instead of moving to Placerville.
However, Mark Contois, acting assistant director of DHS, said the reason the seven people -- four social workers, a supervisor, office assistant and case aide – were being transferred was to better distribute the caseload and that money had no role. He did not provide the number of CPS cases for either side of the county.
Although it’s not an employer’s issue where people live, one person who was going to have to commute to Placerville lives in Dayton and another is in Gardnerville. Caseworkers even offered to give up their Tahoe differential of about $250/month to remain headquartered in the basin. To them it is about the people they serve.
Contois’ statement about money not being part of the equation also contradicts the El Dorado County Child Welfare System Improvement Plan that went into effect the day after the May 21 letter was sent.
That document, which is required by the state and has been in the works since last fall, says, “The current global economic decline and state budget cuts have impacted the county and created uncertainties relative to future funding availability. The concurrent increased need for services exceeds available resources.”
Another money issue exists -- more staff is needed. About six social workers were let go in the 2008-09 fiscal year because of cuts from the state.
An employee, who didn’t want to be identified, said, “The way the economy is we are overwhelmed in the welfare department.” This person said it is impacting children and the services provided.
“We understand and appreciate the need for these services. The one thing we do not want is to cut any additional social workers,” Santiago said.
With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposing to slash CalWorks – the welfare to work program – that could be devastating to the county. Forty-five people work in that program just in El Dorado County. Santiago questions the governor’s motives with that proposal, saying, “… you are going to keep people on welfare.”
The supervisor admits the county’s decision to relocate CPS workers to Placerville was not well thought out and called it poor communication.
Department of Human Services employees were upset with management before the CPS relocation came to light. Concerns are related to the decisions management is making – promotions for Placerville workers, but not Tahoe; the Board of Supervisors not being informed; personnel issues in Tahoe not being addressed.
Another county worker confirmed the information supervisors receives from staff contradicts what management says.
A person of authority outside the county who works with children said of DHS, “The leadership over there is ridiculous.”
Some speculate Walker-Conroy and Contois may soon be out, especially as key positions are filled. This month a human resources director comes on board.

Local reaction

Child advocates on the South Shore could not find any good reasons to ship caseworkers to Placerville and were most distraught about what this would mean to children and families in South Lake Tahoe.
Leanne Wagoner with the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center, Alissa Nourse of Tahoe Youth & Family Services, and Wendy David of Court Appointed Special Advocates are the local representatives to the county’s Child Abuse Prevention Council. They were a united front in condemning the decision to uproot the social workers.
Wagoner in a letter to Walker-Conroy dated May 27 asks, “How is this decision ensuring a best possible outcome for children living in South Lake Tahoe?”
She went on to remind the DHS acting director what the goals are for CPS as well as quoting back to her details from the improvement plan that outline how difficult it is for the county to retain social workers and that an increase in neglect and abuse is predicted as the economy goes south.
Nourse said the contradictory information coming from the county compounds the issue. She said information from Santiago’s office is different from DHS.
“Part of the other issue is we are not in those conversations. We serve those families too. Nobody ever came to us and asked ‘How will this affect your families?’,” Nourse said.

Convention center stalled indefinitely

6/09 unedited tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Randy Lane is not running to bankruptcy court. In fact, he’s not sure he’ll ever end up there.
As the face of Lake Tahoe Development Company – the firm which owns the property known locally as the hole in the ground at the state line – Lane remains optimistic.
On June 4 the South Lake Tahoe City Council unanimously agreed to deny the sale of Mello-Roos bonds that were designed to partially pay off LTDC’s debt.
Four notices of default have been filed against the developer by investors. The first was filed April 1 for nearly $1.6 million, the next was May 8 for almost $2.5 million, two on May 29, one for about $1.2 million and the other for approximately $7.5 million.
The legal notices give the developer three months from the date filed to satisfy those debts before foreclosure proceedings would begin.
“We definitely will continue to move the project forward. We have several good things in the hopper. We are not throwing in the towel,” Lane told the Tahoe Mountain News the day after the council said no to the early sale of Mello-Roos bonds. “We own the property. They may have debt against it, but we own it.”
At the June 2 public hearing, where the first three rows of council chambers were filled with consultants for the city and developer, much talk was how the bonds would save LTDC. Ultimately the council decided the risk to the city was too great of a gamble.
“I voted no on the Mello-Roos bonds because I felt that there was no plan from LTDC for continued construction and that eventually there would be a default on the bonds,” Mayor Jerry Birdwell said. “And the default would leave a black mark on the city of South Lake Tahoe’s rating in the market place. I feel badly for the people who may lose money as a result of him going into bankruptcy, but I must look to what I think is best for the overall community.”
Mello-Roos bonds have always been part of the process, but they were to be sold once the project was complete. The early sale would have bought Lane two years.
Lane said, “It was not a rescue plan for Lake Tahoe Development Company. If it was, we could have filed for bankruptcy several months ago.”
Prior to this month’s meetings, Lane spoke at length with the Mountain News.
“… we are talking to others who would cure the default, the existing debt. We have some opportunities,” the Zephyr Cove developer said. “This is legitimate, valid. It’s not smoke and mirrors. We are talking a partner or sale. It’s no people you would recognize in the hospitality industry because most of those people are upside down. These are people who know the business. They normally own the asset and do the same thing we do.”
One thing in Lane’s favor is the 29 parcels were just appraised at $100 million. He owes about $55 million. LTDC has about $90 million of the $144 million spent to date invested in the $410 million project – the largest development in South Lake Tahoe’s history.
“It’s not like it’s 11 acres of raw dirt. It has gone far beyond that. That creates some challenges,” Lane said. “Everyone will get paid in my opinion.”
The $20 million raised in condo sales a couple years ago was returned to buyers when it became evident the project was indefinitely stalled. It’s unknown if these people would be interested in owning at the Lake in the future.
Even though Lane said he will do everything he can to stay out of bankruptcy, he doesn’t speak of it as the death nil to his project.
“Everyone thinks that (bankruptcy) is a four letter word. It’s not,” Lane said. “At this moment nor ever has it been our preferred alternative. But if we had to use it to preserve our equity or to fend off someone, we would use that tool. But we don’t think we need to.”

City’s stance

Ta-hole. That’s how Gene Palazzo, South Lake Tahoe’s redevelopment manager, described the non-existent convention center during the May general plan meeting.
It’s a concrete slab with rebar sticking out of it and a wood fence around the perimeter.
Questions have been raised about the structural integrity while it sits exposed to the elements year after year. City staff and the developer assured the council all necessary tests will be done to ensure the materials in place are intact for when the next phase of construction begins.
Councilman Hal Cole, who helped negotiate the contract between the city and developer, said he was surprised LTDC was allowed to proceed without all the financing in place.
“He must have shown the council he had the money. I wasn’t there,” Cole said. (After serving on the council for 12 years, he was off for two years before being re-elected last November.)
Palazzo said the council at the time OK’d construction to begin with just a letter of credit from a San Francisco bank. However, letters of credit in this town have a history of being useless. Such was the case when American Ski Company, which used to own Heavenly Mountain Resort, secured such a letter to build the gondola. That letter, too, never produced cash and ASC sold the ski resort and filed for bankruptcy.
Lane said he was confident enough with the letter to start work in 2007, less than a year after the owner participation agreement was signed in July 2006.
“We went forward with the work because we didn’t think there was any issue with the loan,” Lane said. That September the bank rescinded the promissory note. “We had spent more than $25 million and we owed $22 million. We had to pay the contractors.”
The money to do so was secured at a higher rate of interest than what the San Francisco bank had offered.
Another issue is that the final map for the property has never been recorded. It was approved by the City Council on Oct. 31, 2007.
Palazzo said the final map, which would consolidate the properties into five parcels, can’t be filed until the lien holders give their OK or are paid off and therefore not involved.
The city’s redevelopment manager further said it is “not typical” to begin construction without recording a final map.
For the time being, the city has little recourse but to be mocked by residents for allowing another hole in the ground to fester. Most officials believe the hole is better than the rundown hotels that were there.
Plus, the property is valued higher now than when it had buildings on it. Even though Lane is not paying his property tax bill, the city is receiving it’s share through the state Teeter law.
The hotel tax collections are also up in this area since the demolition of the old hotels, while sales tax is down throughout the city. So this points to the city making the correct decision financially – at least as of today – to go forward with the convention center, hotel-condo, retail development.
But the big question remains – When will it no longer be a hole?

South Tahoe two city attorneys onboard

6/09 unedited tahoe mt. news

For 19 days, South Lake Tahoe will have three city attorneys.
Jacqueline Mittelstadt and Patrick Enright came onboard June 1. City Attorney Cathy DiCamillo retires June 19. She is hanging on a couple weeks to help the newbies get up to speed.
Mittelstadt, who most recently worked in the private sector but has 14 years experience as a city attorney in San Diego, is the city’s official city attorney.
Enright, who worked for a private firm in San Luis Obispo, is filling a position the council created May 19, the same day both were officially hired. His title is redevelopment counsel/deputy city attorney.
Both earn $128,000 a year and signed a two-year contract.
In a staff report, City Manager Dave Jinkens wrote, “It is anticipated that the hiring of a Redevelopment Counsel/Deputy City attorney will have up to 50% of their salary paid from savings in the legal reorganization and savings from use of outside legal counsel.”
No figures are available for how much the city spends on outside special counsel.

Charter Cables' woes

Charter Communications, the local cable and Internet provider, is in a world of financial hurt. The company hasn’t made a profit this century, according to reports.
For now, the city is not worried Charter has filed for bankruptcy.
“They have assured us they will continue providing service, paying the franchise fees and operating the system here,” City Manager Dave Jinkens said.
Manny Martinez, Charter’s vice president-general manager for the Sierra Nevada region, said service should be status quo. This includes airing KCRA out of Sacramento and not broadcasting San Francisco’s KGO to the approximately 12,000 Charter subscribers in the South Lake Tahoe-El Dorado County area.
Martinez is now the voice for Charter because George Jostlin, who earlier this year spoke before the South Lake Tahoe City Council, is no longer with the company.
Not everyone is thrilled with the status quo.
One Charter customer wrote the Tahoe Mountain News, saying, “So aren't we glad we have KCRA and the reception is lousy. I've emailed them twice. One day it’s a picture that breaks up like a jigsaw puzzle, (one) Friday it was silent every fourth word.”

Broc's Puppies raided

6/09 unedited tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Broc’s Puppies may be allowed to stay in business as long as the current owners want.
Even though the city voted to enact an ordinance to ban retail outlets that sell dogs and cats, the original plan was to allow the lone store selling puppies to do so for two years before having to close.
An April 20 letter from Michele L. Giguiere, a Sacramento attorney representing Broc’s owner Dennis Frank, threatens the City Council with a lawsuit.
With a search warrant served on Broc’s June 2, Giguiere has more work to do for her clients and the future seems less clear.
Lt. Robert Gerat with El Dorado County Animal Control is sifting through boxes of evidence that was seized from the South Lake Tahoe store. He expects to go through it in a couple weeks and then send a complaint to the district attorney’s office.
“It has nothing to do with quote unquote puppy mill puppies or where the animals came from,” Gerat said. He had no comment when asked if the investigation has to do with the number of sick puppies reportedly sold by the store.
No animals were taken and the store is open during the investigation.
In May, the City Council met behind closed doors to discuss the potential litigation from Broc’s in relation to the ordinance. Sources told the Tahoe Mountain News the council voted 3-1, with Kathay Lovell the nay vote and Hal Cole absent, to allow Broc’s to operate indefinitely. The caveat is owners would not be allowed to sell the business.
Attorney Giguiere’s letter in part says, “My client is prepared to bring legal action against the City Council and the City of South Lake Tahoe at this time …. (Frank) is also prepared to have the ordinance challenged as to its constitutionality and recover all damages, including attorney’s fees and court costs occasioned by the acts of the City and City Council. As a compromise, I would suggest that the City exempt my client from the ordinance and grandfather him in since his store was established prior to the ordinance.”
When contacted May 20, Giguiere said she was not aware of the council’s closed session vote. That day she said the ball was in the council’s hands. She did not return calls before deadline for a June update.
Mayor Jerry Birdwell refused to comment on Broc’s because it’s caught in litigation. He deferred to City Attorney Cathy DiCamillo, who did not call back.
Issues brought up by the store’s attorney include the lack of definitions of puppy mill and kitten factory, the state and federal constitutional validity of South Lake’s ordinance, and whether more emotion was used than fact in crafting the law.
Giguiere questions whether council members Hal Cole and Kathay Lovell should have voted on the ordinance because they have bred dogs. Cole’s Malamute had puppies 30 years ago – that’s the extent of his breeding experience. Lovell’s last successful breed was 19 years ago. Her dog was neutered after his last attempt three years ago.
“I will always consider myself a breeder,” Lovell said. “I’m a mother but not having babies anymore is my analogy of it.”
Cole said he cast his vote for the ordinance “as much for moral and ethical issues” as for legal.

Firewood -- $20 a cord

Firewood permits are available now through Oct.31 from the U.S. Forest Service.
Permits cost $20 per cord with a two cord minimum purchase and maximum of 10 cords per household for the downed dead wood. Permits are available at 35 College Drive in South Lake Tahoe, Monday through Friday, 8am to 4:30pm. For more information, call (530) 543-2694.

Grants for Tahoe business owners

South Lake Tahoe small businesses have the opportunity to tap into a $300,000 grant the city was awarded from California Housing and Community Development.
A business with no more than five employees is eligible to get free assistance to create a website, marketing plan or financial advice.
This grant helps the city continue the Microenterprise Assistance Program it stared in 2006 with a similar $500,000 grant. By February 2009, the funds had been used by 30 participants who received financial advice, marketing assistance, and help with creating logos, flyers and business brochures. Nine websites were created
To participate, contact Nancy Kerry, who helped convince the state of Tahoe’s worthiness, at (530) 542-6043 or Nancy Ficco at (530) 542-7413.

Angora -- 2 years later

6/09 tahoe mt. news unedited

By Kathryn Reed

Gardner Mountain -- it almost seems to be the forgotten part of Angora.
Although no houses were lost in this area during the June 2007 firestorm, the forest was ravaged. Those who live in the neighborhood and use the trails wonder why it seems this section of the 3,100 acres that were destroyed two years ago is not getting its just due.
The U.S. Forest Service as the land owner believes the acreage is being treated fairly and appropriately. Trees behind Gardner Street within about 150 feet of backyards were taken out right after the fire.
What’s left is evidence machines were used to log the area. Dirt is disturbed. Chunks of limbs of various sizes are strewn about. It’s called the lop and scatter method. New vegetation is scarce. Aesthetically it’s a bit of an eyesore – even more so than the charred forest.
USFS forester Duncan Leao scans the area, noting firs still need to be removed. But he defends what is left behind, reiterating this was a hazard tree removal area, not a thinning project.
“We do leave some of the slash on the ground for cover,” Leao said. “From a fuels perspective, this is what’s prescribed. There are less fuels on the ground now then when we had the fire.”
To the lay person, it looks more like a bonfire ready to be lighted. But because much of the debris left behind isn’t twigs or entire trees, it does not present a fire hazard, according to the Forest Service. Little sticks used for kindling pose the greatest threat to starting a fire, and then the big logs that burn hot and long that sustain a fire.
Beginning later this month and into July the trail extending off Panther Lane will have trees removed as a safety precaution. Even though the area is lush with an abundance of new green growth, some of that will succumb to the machines that will remove the towering dead pines and firs that pose a liability for the Forest Service.
Holes riddle many of the trees – evidence insects are nibbling away at the bark and birds are going after them. This behavior further destroys the trees that stand hundreds of feet tall.
Even grander views of Lake Tahoe are sure to be a result of the logging. Two years ago a hiker or mountain biker could not see the Lake.
The Forest Service uses mechanical and hand crews on dry ground for about 95 percent of work like this. Some work was done during the winter over the snow in Angora proper. Leao said that type of work is good for the ground, but it means having to go back in later to deal with large tree stumps and debris under the snow that wasn’t touched.

The burn area

It’s been two years and still no arrests have been made in the fire that was started by an illegal campfire at Seneca Pond on June 24, 2007. It was fully contained July 2. It caused more than $150 million in damage and cost about $23 million to fight.
Through May 2009, about 35 acres of U.S. Forest Service land have been reforested. The federal agency owned the bulk of the 3,100 acres that were charred.
Students from Zephyr Cove Elementary to the Environmental Magnet School helped plant some of the 7,275 trees. Most of the Jeffery pine, red fir, incense cedar and sugar pines were year-old saplings. Three-year-old seedlings also were planted by groups and individuals.
Now the Forest Service is working on maintaining the little trees by getting people to volunteer to keep them watered when Mother Nature isn’t doing so. The problem is saplings have a mortality rate of 50-100 percent. In the past, the success of planting in the basin has been dismal.
By mid-summer the USFS expects to release an environmental assessment of the area for final public comment. This will dictate how further restoration measures are carried out.
Funding for projects will be an issue no matter what is decided. Although heli-logging has been proposed for Angora Ridge and parts of Gardner Mountain, it may prove to be cost prohibitive.
The current plan is to remove the trees from Angora Ridge and let it return to chaparral – which is what pictures show it looked like in the 1930s.
Erosion control measures throughout the burn area – on all public and private land -- held during the winter and are continuing to with these unusual spring rains.
Not all contractors in the burn area are being conscientious about the environment. Two local contractors were cited for trespassing on National Forest land. A press release from the U.S. Forest Service said the contractors are accused of causing ruts, driving over seedlings and uprooting boundary markers.
Names of the companies are not being released per a federal law the Forest Service cited. Once the $250 fine has been paid the names will be public record.

Residents recover

Of the 254 houses that were destroyed in the Angora Fire, 184 are in some stage of being rebuilt – which may just be the permitting process.
It’s a mish-mash out there – with more lots bustling with activity than stagnant. A couple lots still have the county checklist out front.
On Cliff Road an asphalt driveway and cement stairs lead to a lot full of old wood chips and charred tree stumps.
From Elk Point Circle it looks like a new subdivision is being built.
On Pyramid Circle John Mauriello’s old lot remains empty. (Read about how Mauriello is doing in the July Tahoe Mountain News.)
At the Angora Garden, aka the labyrinth, on Lake Tahoe Boulevard a drip irrigation system is in place. Trees are growing. A bird house is stocked for the songbirds chirping nearby.
It’s hard not to be at this oasis amid the ruins without being contemplative. Behind the fence is the natural vegetation – yellow mule’s ear and purple delphinium bloom beneath the charred pines. Life and death – it’s a constant juxtaposition in the burn area.
Life does go on, but headaches remain. Tara Brennan and Tony Colombo still have insurance issues. Their court date with State Farm is scheduled for June 22.
Brennan is losing her job at Pier 1 Imports. Colombo just got laid off from BlueGo when the bus agency cut routes. It was his fourth job since the fire.
“I’m running out of career options in Tahoe,” he says half in jest.
Still, they say they are glad they rebuilt.
“I didn’t really know what to expect. But I sit on my back deck and say it is good to be home,” Brennan aid.
She says this even after the garage flooded in the winter because of the high water table.
Water – it’s an issue plaguing so many in the burn area. Considering an adult conifer can absorb about 80 gallons of water a day, the water has to go somewhere now that the trees are gone. The liquid just rises. Sump pumps are being put in at residences that never had them before.
“We are trying to get as much vegetation and trees in to hold the water,” Brennan said.
The couple also wants more mature trees to help with wind and shade.
The irony is the abundance of water has allowed aspen stands to flourish.
A series of meetings this year resulted in a landscape plan being developed by Susie Kocher, a natural resources advisor with UC Cooperative Extension. The document is a guideline for residents. It’s available at
Paula and Larry Lambdin live around the corner on Pyramid Circle. They’ve noticed how much more natural vegetation is coming back this year compared to a year ago.
“I think it gets better every day. It’s still hard to look at the ridge,” Paula Lambdin said.
She said when emergency vehicles were streaming to Angora Lakes Resort on May 20 it was jarring. She said the arson at the cabin “generated a lot of anxiety” for those in the burn area.
(Transient Peter Benjamin Manista, 31, is the suspect in the arson, burglary and vandalism.)
What perks the Lambdins up is seeing more people move back to the neighborhood. Lights are on at neighbors; port-a-potties are taken off the street. A sense of normalcy is returning.

Relief center

The Community Disaster Resource Center is using the last of its donations to help anyone who has at least applied for a building permit by giving them a voucher for about $1,360. The home owner has the choice to open an account with Tahoe Outdoor Living or Aspen Hollow.
People have until July 6, 2009, to open the account and until July 1, 2010, to spend the money.
The roughly $250,000 in vouchers will essentially bring the balance to zero for the nonprofit that was created after the fire. The offices will close in July.
Carrie Reiter, administrative director for CDRC, said the last day for survivors to turn in applications for underinsurance assistance is June 30. She said estimates are that collectively the households of Angora were underinsured by more than $12 million.
Her group collected just shy of $1 million in the less than two years it has existed.
Reiter had 237 cases. A case is each renter in a house, a child older than 21 living at home or a family/couple. About 90 of the cases were renters, Reiter said.
Reiter credited her board of directors for making some tough decisions – decisions not all survivors have been happy with.
“You get to see the best and worst of everybody in this situation,” Reiter said. “I’ve had some harass me for a year because they were not getting (money from CDRC) for a waterfall or barbecue and others who won’t apply (for help). Everybody had a different way of handling things.”

Things to know

Assemblyman Ted Gaines is hosing a discussion about Angora two-years later on the anniversary of the fire. The June 24 discussion from 6-9pm is at South Tahoe Middle School’s multipurpose room. He is expected to have members of the bi-state Blue Ribbon Commission on hand to talk about what, if anything, is being done with that report.
Tahoe Area Sierra Club is having Jessica Mahnken from the Sierra Nevada Fire Safe Council speak June 18 at 6:30pm to explain how residential lots can be improved to increase fire safety. She will delve into how much defensible space is necessary, and what kinds of ground cover and plantings can be close to a house.
Mahnken will also explain the various forms of assistance available to homeowners, BMPs, and Lake Valley’s chipping service.
The meeting is at the Round Hill Fire Station on Elks Point Road.
The reverse 911 system for El Dorado County has been operational since mid-April. It allows people to be notified about an emergency as it happens. The system can send alerts to landlines, cell phones and via email.
Isolated locales can be notified with an evacuation message, while outlying areas could be given a broader message. It can make 1,000 calls per minute.
A $140,000 Homeland Security grant paid for the system.
The system also allows people to call in to get recorded information during an emergency. That number is (530) 470-5001.
This summer a test message will be sent to people who are in the system and notifications sent via the media for people to add their info or more methods of contact to the database.

Firefighting capabilities

Despite a scary state budget situation, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month renewed his commitment to make state resources available to local jurisdictions consumed with fire.
“Last summer when California was engulfed by 2,000 fires, California’s brave and hard working firefighters beat back every one of those fires, but it was not without great sacrifice and great cost,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “A third straight year of drought only heightens the danger we face this summer, and we need every firefighting tool on ready alert, so we can spring into action when disaster strikes. This Executive Order directs CalFire to immediately mobilize more personnel and equipment, which means more crews, more engines, more helicopters and more planes to ensure our firefighters have the tools they need again this year to keep us safe.”
His directive calls for departments like Emergency Management Agency, National Guard, California Conservation Corps and state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to work with federal and local agencies when it comes to fire prevention and firefighting.
Local Forest Service firefighting budgets have not been cut. The bad economy has seen more people signup to be on-call firefighters with the Forest Service. At the beginning of June, 61 people had gone through the training and another 12 were wrapping up their paperwork.
“(There are) no budget impacts to our ability to hire on firefighters, or to our partners (that we’re aware of),” said Cheva Heck, USFS spokeswoman.