The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act

Critical funding for environmental improvement at Tahoe

The 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Summit brought national and international attention to the unique natural beauty of Lake Tahoe and the threats facing it. It also paved the way for hundreds of millions of federal dollars to flow to Tahoe.

President Clinton and Vice President Gore at Tahoe. 1997.

President Clinton and Vice President Gore accompany UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center scientists on Lake Tahoe. Photo: UC Davis TERC

That event, and the enthusiasm of President Clinton and Vice President Gore, built momentum that led to the passage of the 2000 Lake Tahoe Restoration Act and $300 million in funding for Tahoe environmental projects. The League, along with other Basin partners including the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, was instrumental in launching the first Lake Tahoe Summit and the passage of the original Act in 2000. The funding provided by the Act has been vital to efforts to restore Lake Tahoe’s clarity.

In December of 2016, President Obama signed legislation that included the second Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, authorizing an additional $415 million for restoration, research and aquatic invasive species and wildfire prevention at Lake Tahoe. With the signing, the Act re-affirmed its role as a keystone of the effort to protect and restore Lake Tahoe’s clarity. The League strongly supported this legislation, which followed action by California and Nevada to renew their commitment to cooperation on Lake Tahoe’s environmental goals, without which continued public funding may have been impossible.

Funds from the ACT are channeled through Lake Tahoe’s Environmental Improvement Program – one of the most ambitious restoration efforts in the nation. It addresses water quality, air quality, transportation, forest management, recreation and scenic beauty at Lake Tahoe by funding and implementing capital improvement projects targeting these key areas. While improving Lake Tahoe’s legendary clarity is a top concern, the program takes a holistic watershed-based approach to delivering a range of environmentally beneficial projects.

A contingent of business, nonprofit and public agency leaders from Tahoe make biennial trips to Washington D.C. to press Tahoe’s federal delegation for Lake-friendly policies and secure funding sources. The Tahoe Partnership includes the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Tahoe Chamber, along with numerous others. The past efforts of these Tahoe champions include the passage of the 2016 Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, which was championed by Senators Dean Heller and Harry Reid of Nevada, and Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California.

President Obama at the 2016 Lake Tahoe Summit.

President Obama speaking at the 2016 Lake Tahoe Summit. Photo: Sierra Sun.

Now, the Tahoe Partnership’s advocacy efforts focus on ensuring that Tahoe’s federal funding lifeline continues. That includes working with Tahoe’s delegation to push Congress for the continued allocation of funds approved under the 2016 Act.

Additionally, in May of 2021, a bicameral, bipartisan group of federal legislators, led by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Representative Mark Amodei of Nevada, came together to propose an extension of the 2016 Act. The bill seeks to ensure that $350 million of previously authorized but unallocated funds will flow to Tahoe, so critical environmental projects can march on.