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CSP UTR Project

This project will study alternatives for restoring a 1.5-mile-long reach of the river through Washoe Meadows State Park and Lake Valley State Recreation Area. The property was divided into two units to facilitate management of the Lake Tahoe Golf Course, which is currently operated under lease for California State Praks (CSP). The golf course was constructed on former meadow areas adjacent to the Upper Truckee River prior to purchase of the property by CSP.


Channel straightening, grazing, logging and recreational uses have impacted this reach of the river, leading to accelerated levels of bed and bank erosion and habitat degradation. 

The stream has been straightened leading to a decrease in sinuosity and steeping of slope resulting in increased erosive force.  The channel has down-cut relative to its floodplain, leaving the old floodplain to become a terrace that is only flooded in less frequent events, and head-cutting continues.

Since the floodwaters do not release onto a floodplain, the depth of water in the channel is deeper, high stress is exerted on the bed and banks, and chronic erosion results.

Meadow and floodplain function is disrupted, and the system has lost its natural mechanism for removing fine sediment. In-stream and riparian corridor habitat are degraded.

The layout of the golf course also contributes to problems.  The golf course was constructed on the meadow floodplain in the late 1950s. Several undersized bridges constrict flow and accelerate velocities leading to erosion downstream.

The golf course occupies the former meander belt and wet meadow area along the river. These would have been important habitat areas. Also in many areas, some fairways and holes of the golf course are located adjacent to the river, with no riparian buffer zone or habitat corridor.

Rapidly eroding, tall fine-grained banks that do not support vegetation or riparian habitat characterize this reach. The banks generate sediment that is introduced directly to the river and into Lake Tahoe.  This situation causes not only damage to the golf course facilities, but also deterioration of riparian habitat and degradation of water quality.  There is also no riparian buffer zone to separate the areas where fertilizer is applied to turf from the river or provide a habitat corridor.

The recent study by Andrew Simon of the National Sedimentation Laboratory (commissioned by the California Water Quality Control Board (WQCB) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) states:

"The Upper Truckee River is the greatest contributor of suspended and fine-grained sediment in the Lake Tahoe Basin " and "sediment delivery from the Upper Truckee River could be significantly reduced by controlling stream bank erosion in the reaches adjacent to the golf course and downstream from the airport."

The golf course reach was also identified as the greatest opportunity for rehabilitation in the study by Swanson Hydrology and Geomorphology (SH& G ).


California State Parks is proactively and voluntarily seeking a solution to improve the habitat and condition of this reach of the Upper Truckee River and Lake Tahoe.  The project goal is to restore the river and its adjacent floodplain and meadows to the extent possible with the goal of maintaining a similar level of golf and dispersed recreation.


The preliminary goals of the project include:

-- Restore, to the extent feasible, natural geomorphic processes that sustain channel and floodplain morphology .
-- Restore, to the extent feasible, ecosystem function in terms of ecological processes and aquatic and riparian habitat quality.
-- Reduce erosion and improve water quality including reduction of the reach's contribution of suspended sediment and nutrient loading in the Upper Truckee River and Lake Tahoe.
-- Minimize and mitigate short-term water quality and other environmental impacts during construction.
-- Improve the golf course layout, infrastructure and management to reduce the environmental impact of the golf course on the river's water quality and riparian habitat by integrating environmentally-sensitive design concepts.
-- In the stream environment zone, reduce the area occupied by the golf course and increase the extent and quality of riparian and meadow habitat.
-- Provide opportunities for informal, non-vehicular recreation.

-- Maintain golf recreation opportunity.
-- Continue revenue income to state parks.
-- Avoid any increase in flood hazard to private property.


In order to restore the river and its adjacent floodplain, meadows and riparian habitat, part of the golf course would need to be relocated or eliminated.  Not only will the restored meanders of the river require more room, the river will also be at a higher elevation and be able to inundate its floodplain more often.  This in turn would raise the water table and support riparian and wet meadow habitat, but would be incompatible with golf use. 

Since approximately eight to nine of the golf course holes are in the area to be restored to meadow and floodplain, they must either be eliminated or relocated. 

California State Parks has done a preliminary analysis of the lands within WMSP and LVSRA to determine where the holes could be located.  The factors considered in selection of the initial study area to be considered include :

-- Minimize connectivity and proximity of golf course to river.
-- Minimize golf area in 100 year floodplain and “Stream Environment Zone”.
-- Avoid or minimize sensitive habitat.
-- Avoid or minimize archaeological sites.
-- Maximize utilization of “higher capability” areas for golf course.
-- Accommodate dispersed recreation access.
-- Provide connectivity between golf areas.

< See map of project considerations >


As part of this project, CSP, with input during public meetings, has developed five alternatives to be evaluated:

ALTERNATIVE 1 : No project/No Action: Existing River and 18-hole Regulation Golf Course. Under this alternative there would be no change to the golf course, WMSP, river, or recreational trails.

ALTERNATIVE 2: River Ecosystem Restoration with Reconfigured 18-hole Regulation Golf Course. Under this alternative part of the existing golf course would be re-located to less sensitive land further from the river. The river and floodplain would be restored, and all existing UTR bridges removed. The boundaries of the 2 units would be adjusted with an approximately equal exchnage of land. A new trail would be constructed on both sides of the river, tying into the new bridge and with the bike paths.

ALTERNATIVE 3: River Ecosystem Restoration with Reduced Play Golf Course. Under this alternative the river and floodplain would be restored as in alternative 2, but the golf course would be reduced in area allowing only for an executive or 9 hole regulation course. All bridges over the UTR would be removed, but no new bridge would be installed. Trails would be constructed on the east side of the river to tie in with the bike path.

ALTERNATIVE 4: River Stablization with Existing 18-hole Regulation Golf Course. This alternative would stabilize the river in it's current straightned incised configuration using a combination of large rock bank and bed protectiona dn bio-engineering. Only minor changes would be made to the golf course. No change to recreation access or trails.

ALTERNATIVE 5: River and Meadow Ecosystem Restoration / Decommissioned Golf Course. This alterative would have the same river treatment as alternatives 2 and 3 with full river and floodplain restoration, but the entire golf course would be removed. Both park units (WMSP and LVSRA) would be studied for future potential recreational uses. All bridges over the UTR would be removed.

In addition possible off-site relocation of the golf course is being analyzed for feasibility.


To date, work on the project has included an assessment of the watershed  that was completed in October 2004. That study provided a detailed review of the history and environmental health of the watershed. Building on that assessment, a March 2006 study reviewed the feasibility and developed conceptual ideas for the restoration.

From those recommendations, CSP is developing a conceptual plan for the golf course and river. Planners have selected a consultant, EDAW, to conduct the research and prepare the Environmental Impact Report and Environmental Impact Statement as required under the National Environmental Protection Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

Public scoping meetings were held in September 2006 to identify issues to be included in the environmental document and solicit public comments on the plan.

The consultant will work on data collection and analyze the effects of the alternatives and will release a draft environmental review document during the fall of 2009.

The public and agencies will have ample time to review and provide written or oral comments at public hearings and meetings. In the spring of 2010, a final EIR/EIS that includes a response to comments on the draft will be released.

Map of Golf Course Configuration for Alternatives

This map (above) shows the areas that would be golf course under alternatives 2, and 3. Under alternative 5 there would be no golf course and under alternatives 1 and 4 the golf course remains in its current location. Under alternatives 2 and 3, the area in orange would remain golf course. Under alternative 2 the area in green would become part of the WMSP and the area in pink would become part of LVSRA.

This would be a trade of approximately 50 acres of higher capability land more distal from the river for the area to be restored along the river. This would involve an exchange of land and boundaries between the two park units.  The portion of the golf course near the river in the LVSRA would be relocated, as much as is feasible, to uplands in WMSP, and the area along the river would be restored to riparian floodplain and meadow. The boundaries of the LVSRA would be adjusted to encompass just the golf course, and restored riparian areas would be reclassified as state park.
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