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Tahoe Conservation District Acquires Land on Upper Truckee River

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (AP) -- A large swath of privately owned land along the Upper Truckee River has been acquired by conservation agencies as part of an effort to restore an altered watershed harming Lake Tahoe's clarity.

The Tahoe Resource Conservation District in California recently announced the acquisition of Johnson Meadow, a 206-acre (83-hectare) area that once served as a natural water filter that helped reduce the amount of fine sediment flowing into the lake, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported Tuesday.

The $8.3 million land purchase was made possible through a partnership among the district, the California Tahoe Conservancy, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Tahoe Fund and the former property owners.

The water previously meandered through the marsh, letting the sediment settle before the water continued into Lake Tahoe. Now, water flows through an altered river channel directly into the lake.

Decades ago, developers had dredged and filled hundreds of acres of marshlands to build residential areas, causing problems for wildlife and the lake's clarity.

Environmental agencies have been buying land along the Upper Truckee River since the late 1980s with the intent of stopping development and restoring the wetlands.

The California Tahoe Conservancy completed a 12-acre (5-hectare) restoration project on the western edge of the marsh in 2001. The project led to other local, state and federal agencies undertaking efforts to restore sections of the river and more than 1,000 acres (405 hectare) of surrounding wetlands.

The restoration project for the meadow will likely take a decade to implement, said Nicole Cartwright, executive director of the conservation district. To restore the meadow, it will require up $15 million in funding.

"Really what the restoration will entail is stream bank erosion control and rebuilding the channels," Cartwright said. "The river right now is sort of a one direct shot into the lake. It will be re-channelized to turn and meander and have a much longer, wider path throughout the whole flood plain."

The district is planning to reintroduce native grasses, which will help create a habitat for birds and other wildlife.

"From our perspective, we view the restoration of the river as a restoration program where there are multiple projects up and down the river that are being coordinated as one effort," said Scott Carroll, environmental planner at the conservancy. "The scope and scale of it is unparalleled from the rest of the basin."

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