Progress seen in restoration of Lake Tahoe's clarity

Latest data on Lake Tahoe's clarity make it crystal clear that a controversial muddying of the waters by development has slowed or ceased.

UC Davis scientists said last week that the alpine lake was clear to an average depth of 69.6 feet in 2008, despite a prolonged fallout of ash into the lake from fires in nearby Sierra Nevada forests. Though a half-foot decline from the previous year, the latest clarity measurement is within the range it has been for the past eight years, said researchers who have monitored the lake since 1968.

Environmental regulators and advocates say the reduced rate of visibility loss is likely a payoff from decades of erosion control, conservation purchases, wetlands restoration and some of the world's most restrictive building rules. Restoration efforts, however, must accelerate to offset recently documented effects of climate change, UC Davis researchers said. They suspect global warming could limit the lake's natural mixing cycle, triggering disruption of the food web and robbing it of a clear, cobalt blue hue that helped make Tahoe a world-class tourist destination.

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