The Annual Tahoe Summit was held virtually on Tuesday. This year, officials focused on climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the lake.
The pandemic has brought many people outside, and a significant amount of visitors to Lake Tahoe. Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada said Tahoe had more visitors in April of this year than it usually does during the peak season in July.
“The COVID-19 crisis has helped remind us how valuable the outdoors is to our health, emotional, physical, and spiritual, and that's exactly why we need to work even more diligently to protect open spaces and those who work to maintain them,” Cortez Masto said.
Since the first summit in 1977, $2.4 billion has been invested into the Lake Tahoe basin, including the construction of bike and pedestrian trails, measures to reduce the risk of wildfires, and water restoration projects.
But, Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein of California stressed that climate change poses a risk to the progress that has been made.
“Climate change is already having a profound effect on this lake and it threatens to roll back much of our progress. It's allowing invasive species to thrive, it's killing off trees, it's cutting off the snowpack and it's reducing water clarity in the lake,” Feinstein said.
There are other issues facing Lake Tahoe as well.
Monica Arienzo, Assistant Professor of Hydrology at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, explained the impacts of microplastics at the lake that she discovered last year.
“As far as the impacts to aquatic life, there are some studies showing that microplastics can have negative health effects for organisms when they consume plastics,” Arienzo said.
Arienzo said there are no known impacts to humans. Her team is continuing to research microplastics and she touched on what steps Lake Tahoe visitors can take.
“We recommend, kind of the most obvious thing, but is still a problem, is to not litter,” Airenzo said.
Elected officials also stressed the importance of legislation that aims to foster and maintain a healthy Lake Tahoe.
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