Tahoe Conservancy secures another parcel

The California Tahoe Conservancy has announced the acquisition of another South Shore property, making its third significant land purchase of the week.

The Conservancy will acquire an eight mile strip of land purchased in the 1960s by the California Department of Transportation for a freeway corridor that would have linked Meyers to the state line. In 1973, a lack of funding and a proliferation of environmental concerns derailed the transportation department's plans to install a four-lane expressway with six interchange stops through the largely undeveloped property.

Traveling through barren Upper Truckee River marsh lands and South Lake Tahoe's urban developments, the right-of-way purchase will give the Conservancy an opportunity to protect the Upper Truckee watershed from further development.

"It provides a wildlife corridor and open space that is desirable by the community," said Bruce Eisner, Conservancy's program manager for land use and acquisitions. "Much of the corridor is sensitive land and the Conservancy's mission is to protect and restore environmentally sensitive land."

Eisner said the skinny strip was appraised at $5.5 million and will be paid in a land coverage transfer, a highly regulated planning commodity in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Caltrans Spokesman Mark Dinger said the land coverage credit will help the transportation agency meet required environmental improvement projects outlined by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in its $908 million effort to save Lake Tahoe's declining water clarity.

"Obtaining the land coverage was one of the problems we've had with these projects, and we just solved it," Dinger said. "We feel these credits will last 25 years for us."

Caltrans will be using the coverage for erosion control and water quality improvements along its highways in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Drainage improvements along State Route 89 and U.S. Highway 50 were named as priority projects by Dinger.

The property acquisition is also a hinge in a plan to bring recreational facilities to the South Shore.

Two projects outlined in Bond Measure S - construction of four playing fields near Lake Tahoe Community College and a potential bike trail project linking Stateline to Meyers - are slated for construction on the old freeway property with voter approval in a special September election.

The land transfer is an essential piece to the measure's capital improvement plans, according to Dennis Crabb, facilitator for El Dorado County's recreation master plan. He said the land for the ball fields has already been secured through an easement with the county.

"The bike trail is another piece because much of that uses the Caltrans right-of-way between Meyers and Al Tahoe Boulevard," Crabb said. "It's wonderful for the whole community because it preserves open space, provides land for a bike trail and preserves an easement for future alternative transportation uses such as a light rail system."

At 248 acres of linear property, the Caltrans acquisition ranks as the second largest deal the Conservancy has made this week.

The state agency's board approved last Friday a $10 million purchase of a lakeshore meadow in the Upper Truckee River Marsh. Officials called that purchase the most significant land acquisition in the Conservancy's 15-year history.

The board also approved the purchase of a five-acre parcel along the Upper Truckee River near Meadow Vale Drive. That purchase will bring down two dilapidated buildings that have sat empty for 18 years.


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