Western States Politicians Focus on Wildfire Risks at Lake Tahoe Summit

August 17, 2018

The large and deadly wildfires burning in California post a stark reminder of the risk that fires pose to the Lake Tahoe Basin, Nevada and California politicians said at a recent summit.

Officials at the annual Tahoe Summit described their efforts to protect Lake Tahoe and its environment and the risks of increasingly intense wildfires breaking out in the area. The discussion took place as smoke from California wildfires left the normally picturesque landscape covered in haze, the Reno Gazette Journal reported .

Republican Rep. Tom McClintock of California said past summits have not focused on fire prevention but “now nature is screaming its warning at us through the fires that rage throughout the west.”

“The Tahoe Basin is on borrowed time,” said McClintock, the chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Federal Lands. “The fires are all around us and you can see the smoke in the air, which presents a very stark question – how much longer does Tahoe have?”

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, the host of the summit, said the U.S. Senate, on a bipartisan vote, recently approved $12 million for the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act to help with wildfire prevention, invasive species and more.

The measure is still awaiting passage in the House of Representatives.

Officials also spoke about the AlertTahoe camera system to help with early wildfire detection. Heller recently secured $226,000 from the U.S. Forest Service to help add more cameras to the network.

Graham Kent, who runs the system out of the University of Nevada, Reno, said the dozens of cameras are a vital tool to catch early smoke and flames before they grow unmanageable. He said it tracked about 240 fires last year.

California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke about the firefighting efforts in her home state, announcing that the U.S. Air Force is sending seven C-130 cargo aircraft to help California’s firefighting agency.

She also described public and private funds that have been collected to protect the lake. The U.S. government has contributed about $705 million, California has invested $840 million and Nevada has contributed $121 million, she said. Local communities have spent another $121 million and the private sector has put forth $362 million.

She said the private Tahoe Fund raised $8 million more at a Monday night fundraiser.

Other speakers included Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, California Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

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