$415 million Lake Tahoe Restoration Bill introduced into Congress

Note from Storm: This 2009 article documented the introduction of legislation known as the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2009.

It had the goal of spending $415 million over 8 years to restore and preserve Lake Tahoe (California and Nevada).

It was sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Readers who are familiar with the Lake Tahoe situation are invited to comment below on what, if any, restoration has taken place.

A recent controversy indicates that not progress has been made. Apparently, the lake’s famously crystal-clear water has been getting cloudy due to algal growth. The local management authority is proposing the asinine “solution” of dumping toxic herbicides into these formerly-pristine waters to kill the algae.

This isn’t a solution at all, since algae isn’t the problem: it’s just the symptom. The problem is excess nutrients (pollution) from surrounding development and agriculture. Remove the nutrients, and the algae automatically disappears. Adding to the stupidity of the herbicide approach is that, once killed, the algae rots and releases its accumulated nutrients back into the water.

Algae is actually the ideal solution to water pollution: when efficient methods are devised to harvest it, it’s a solar-powered method of both cleansing and oxygenating the water (algae produces the vast majority of the planetary oxygen that keeps us alive).

So, if this dynamic is well-documented (which it has been for decades), why would herbicides be proposed in Lake Tahoe? Several reasons:

  • First, politicians prefer quick, easy “write a check and make it go away” types of solutions;
  • Second, the (usually very large) manufacturing companies that sell products like herbicides are well-versed at “encouraging” politicians to endorse their proposal via “campaign contributions” (known as bribes outside the U.S.);
  • Third, engineers are terrified of complexity, because they want to control everything. This is why engineering-style management has produced most of the world’s recent ecological and urban disasters. Cities, economies, societies, and ecosystems are all complex adaptive systems. A defining characteristic of a complex system is the ability to surprise. The goal of engineering is to eliminate surprises, so engineers tend to treat complex systems as if they were simple, mechanical systems. Thus, a never-ending flow of childishly-simple “fixes” that don’t actually fix anything: they just hide the signs and symptoms.

Making the situation even more ludicrous, it’s recently been proven that Lake Tahoe’s famous blueness–which everyone wants to restore–is actually created by algae.

Photo by Dollar Photo Club.

See original 2009 article.

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