The Ecology of the Lake Tahoe Basin


At the core of the issue of pollution is the fact that Lake Tahoe resides in a basin.It is surrounded 360 degrees by mountains.From the ridge of the mountain tops to the lake below is the basin.Anything that is burned in a basin generally stays in the basin.This is also because of the nature of air inversions that occur when a basin is present, such as at Tahoe.An air inversion refers to a condition in which the temperature of the atmosphere increases with altitude in contrast to the normal decrease with altitude.When a temperature inversion occurs, cold air underlies warmer air at higher altitudes. Inversions trap pollutants preventing them from dispersing into the upper atmosphere. And that is why burning of any kind is unwise in a basin and also why open fireplaces in new construction have been banned in the Basin and woodstoves must be upgraded to meet Phase II emission requirements.†† Consequently, while we are not against biomass burning plants in principle, we believe that all biomass burning power plants should be banned in the Basin.Lake Tahoe is a congressionally designated national treasure!††


To reiterate, efforts to curtail open burning of any kind in the Tahoe Basin have been ongoing for years.It is for that reason that forest waste that canít be removed has been openly burned only on rare occasions, subject to meteorological conditions.For the most part, it has been trucked out of the Basin to Cabin Creek, just south of Truckee, for processing preparatory for transport to the biomass plant in Loyalton, just north of Truckee.We favor a continuation of that activity and find unconscionable the notion of trucking forest waste back into the Basin for burning 24/7.


Moreover, we find the argument that the construction of a multimillion dollar biomass power plant primarily to reduce diesel expenses related to trucking distances when the difference is only 25 miles, absurd.If proponents want to avoid such expenses, they can build their power plant at the Cabin Creek processing facility which is outside the Basin, as has been suggested by Tom Christofk, Placer County Air Pollution Control District officer. ††All biomass materials must go there first for drying and processing into fuel regardless of whether they are then burned in Loyalton or Kings Beach.


And, again, locating a biomass power plant in the Basin will neither reduce open burning nor reduce forest fuels, contrary to unfounded innuendoes by Placer County.