CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- Legislation introduced in Congress on Tuesday would expand the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act and authorize $415 million over eight years to combat the worst environmental threats to the Sierra Nevada lake and surrounding basin.
Congressional delegations from Nevada and California submitted companion bills in the Senate and House of Representatives.
Lake Tahoe environmental regulators have outlined $2.5 billion in environmental improvement projects for the next 10 years.
"Recommitting to restoration efforts at Lake Tahoe is critical to the continued improvement and preservation of this special place," said Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and governing board chairman of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
Congress created the two-state panel in the 1960s to protect Lake Tahoe.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who in 1997 organized the first annual Tahoe Summit attended by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, said the latest bill extends a commitment to restore the ecological health of the Tahoe Basin that straddles the Nevada-California line.
Since that time, we have made great progress," Reid said in a joint statement with co-sponsors. "And today, with the act, we are making it clear that we will continue our nation's commitment to protecting and restoring this jewel of the Sierra."
The first Lake Tahoe Restoration Act was passed in 2000 and led to a cooperative effort that involved $424 million from the federal government, $612 million from California, $87 million from Nevada, $59 million from local governments and $249 million from the private sector through in-kind contributions.
Over the last nine years, the funding had paid for water quality improvements, fuel reduction projects across more than 33,000 acres of forest, and wildlife habitat improvements on nearly 14,000 acres, officials said.
The new bill would continue water quality and fire reduction projects and combat invasive species that could drastically alter the lake's ecosystem and irreversibly cloud its famed clarity.
Scientists have said invasive quagga and zebra mussels, which attach themselves to boats, could cost the Lake Tahoe economy tens of millions of dollars annually if they were to become established.