From The Nevada Independent (Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez):
The growing threat of catastrophic wildfires blazing across the West and the resulting detrimental effects, such as hazardous air quality, were top of mind for Nevada and California leaders gathered on a slightly hazy shore Thursday morning for the 25th annual Lake Tahoe Summit.
Before speakers launched into remarks on climate change, wildfires, infrastructure and legislation aimed at preserving the popular year-round tourist destination, Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California Chairman Serrell Smokey began with a prayer.
“We’re in a changing world right now,” he said. “The waters are low. We pray for snow. We pray for better weather, we pray for better change to come … We have a lot of fires going on around right now, a lot of areas being wiped out. We pray for restoration, we pray for regrowth and new beginnings.”
The air quality across the Tahoe region was labeled as “moderate” on Thursday as the Caldor Fire, which is zero percent contained and has scorched more than 65,000 acres, burns less than 100 miles from the southern shore of the lake. While favorable winds provided some relief during the event, a huge plume of smoke from the fire caused the region’s air quality to plummet to hazardous levels earlier this week.
“We know that fires and drought and sky-high temperatures are already taking a toll on Lake Tahoe’s people and their plants and their animals,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).
Elected officials offered solutions against the backdrop of discouraging trends for the lake during the annual event that brings together bistate leadership to collaborate on preservation efforts.
According to the 2021 State of the Lake report published by the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, the region’s annual average temperature increased by more than 3 degrees last year to 58 degrees. The area saw diminished snowpack and increased rain, with annual precipitation below average at 20 inches. Snow made up less than 50 percent of the precipitation average last year.
The precipitation data shows a break in a prior four-year trend of average or above-average levels.
As a result, the lake’s water levels fell by two feet last year. In the report, researchers said it’s likely that the lake will fall below its natural rim for the first time in a decade by October, at which point the water will stop flowing to the Truckee River. The river delivers 80 percent of all drinking water to Reno and Sparks residents and is the main water source for Pyramid Lake.