“Climate change is one of the biggest threats not only to Lake Tahoe, which experienced its highest ever recorded water temperature last year, but to every community on earth.”
“We have to work together, because here’s the thing: Lake Tahoe doesn’t belong to just one of us…one person, or one business, or one party. Lake Tahoe belongs to all of us. That means it’s all of our responsibility to keep Tahoe blue for future generations to enjoy.”
Incline Village, Nev. – Today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) delivered remarks at the Lake Tahoe Summit highlighting the need for bipartisan cooperation to protect Lake Tahoe from the effects of climate change. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Senator Heller for convening the 22nd annual Lake Tahoe Summit, and to our master of ceremonies: Congressman Mark Amodei.
And thank you to Senators Feinstein and Harris for your partnership in the fight to protect Lake Tahoe.
And of course, Senator Murkowski. It’s a joy to work with you on the Senate Energy Committee. Thank you for coming out to Nevada to be our keynote speaker today.
But most importantly, thanks to all of you…to everyone in the conservation and tribal community who is out here today to support our continued efforts to preserve and protect the jewel of the west, Lake Tahoe.
We are a team. We’re fighting to protect one of our most precious, shared natural resources.
And it’s a privilege and an honor to work alongside you.
Being here at this Summit, with the conservation community, always reminds me of trips I took with my dad as a kid.
My dad was the one who first sparked my interest in conservation and the environment.
He loved the great outdoors.
He thought one of the best parts of living in Nevada was the proximity to some of the most beautiful places this country has to offer.
When my sister and I were kids, he would take us all over the state, camping, hiking, rock climbing, and bird watching.
These trips were so important to him because he wanted us to love the environment like he did. And wanted us to fight to protect it.
He taught us that it was up to us to make sure the next generation could have a chance to experience these beautiful places too.
That, to me, is what conservation is all about: getting to experience the beauty and wonder of nature, and knowing that you have a responsibility to pass it on to the next generation for them to enjoy.
There was a time in history when it seemed like that wouldn’t be possible here at Lake Tahoe. For a while, it looked like future generations would never have a chance to see the beautiful, crystal clear waters as we see them today.
In the 1990s, decades of development, logging, and pollution had taken their toll.
Invasive species, industrial runoff, and algal blooms were threatening our drinking water, our wildlife, and the long-term health of the ecosystem.
That’s when Senators Harry Reid and Dianne Feinstein came up with a big idea to turn things around.
They invited Bill Clinton—the President at the time—to convene a Presidential Summit to address the pollution problems we faced.
That first summit, in the summer of 1997, led to a new era in Lake Tahoe’s history. President Clinton launched a federal initiative to invest $2 billion dollars in the lake and the surrounding area.
As a result, we slowed the long-term decline in water clarity. We cleaned up the garbage and trash from the shores. We fortified habitats in the basin and fended off threats from invasive species.
We did all of this through public-private partnerships. We got everyone involved, from the federal, state, and local governments, to the businesses, tribes, private foundations, citizens, and NGOs.
We showed that conservation and business don’t have to work against each other…It turns out they work best when they’re playing on the same team.
We showed that we’re so much better off when we work side by side to come up with innovative solutions to the challenges we face.
In 2016, Congress re-authorized the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act. This bill dedicated $415 million in federal dollars to continue improving water quality, fighting invasive species, fighting wildfires, and investing in smart technology to monitor the lake.
And our progress continues to this day.
As Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski has made sure that funding for the LTRA was included in the Senate’s Interior Appropriations bill.
That means we secured $12 million dollars for the coming fiscal year to keep up the good work.
Thank you, Lisa, for your support in this area.
And now, in my role as Ranking Member of the Water and Power Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, I’m fighting to make sure it remains a national conservation priority for decades to come.
But despite all of our progress, there are significant challenges ahead.
2017 brought heavy snow and rain totals, contributing to the lowest clarity level we’ve seen in decades.
Urban stormwater that feeds into Lake Tahoe continues to be a threat to the long-term health and clarity of the lake.
Non-native weeds, snails, and mussels are leaching nutrients from the ecosystem and causing unsustainable algal blooms.
And of course, we’re facing climate change. This is one of the biggest threats not only to Lake Tahoe, which experienced its highest ever recorded water temperature last year, but to every community on earth.
The last three years have been the hottest ever recorded. And we’re on track to break that record again in 2018.
In Nevada, we’re seeing longer, more dangerous heat waves and droughts.
We’re seeing more severe wildfires, hurricanes and floods that cause millions of dollars in damage to our homes, schools, and communities.
These extreme weather patterns are already upsetting the delicate balance of the Lake Tahoe ecosystem. And the climate is on track to get more and more extreme in the years to come.
The solution is to break our addiction to the fuels of the past, and move towards our clean energy future.
Businesses in Northern Nevada and California are already showing us the way forward.
The Squaw Valley resort, in Western Lake Tahoe, is a perfect example.
In February, they announced that they will be moving to 100% renewable energy generation, in partnership with the Luning Solar Energy Center in Mineral County.
They’re showing us what that clean energy future looks like.
But green businesses like Squaw Valley shouldn’t have to do it all on their own.
This administration has got to show some leadership too.
That means no more shady business deals at the EPA. No more coal and energy lobbyists giving kickbacks to their former employers.
No more abandoning critical international agreements we need to avert climate disaster.
We need real leadership in the White House.
We should be creating new tax credits to incentivize renewable energy innovation across the board.
I have co-sponsored a bill with Senator Ron Wyden—the Clean Energy for America Act—that would do just that.
We also have to address the transportation problems in this area.
Too many cars on our roads contributes to congestion and pollution runoff.
We should be investing in clean transportation alternatives…bike lanes, electric buses, electric rail ways…so we don’t have to rely on fossil fuels to get around.
We should be using wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, and human energy for transportation in Reno-Tahoe!
And we have to continue to support federal research funding for the scientists studying this region.
Dr. Kristen Averyt and her team at the Desert Research Institute are here at the Summit today. Later on, they’ll be showcasing the incredible work they’re doing to help students, researchers, and visitors alike better understand the lake’s processes.
We are also joined by Dr. Graham Kent and his team at the Nevada Seismological Laboratory.
They have installed a network of cameras to help us monitor and prevent wildfires in the Tahoe basin.
Their goal is to one day expand this network all throughout the West.
These projects are just two examples of the pioneering research being done here at Lake Tahoe.
So I just want to say thank you not only to Dr. Averyt and Dr. Kent but to every researcher here at the Summit today, for working to better understand and protect this region.
Your work is critically important to the future of not only Lake Tahoe, but to all Western states. And our federal policy needs to support your work.
Because the reality is that even though we’ve come a long way over the past two decades, we’ve still got a lot to do.
None of us can do it alone.
We have to work together, because here’s the thing: Lake Tahoe doesn’t belong to just one of us…one person, or one business, or one party.
Lake Tahoe belongs to all of us.
It belongs to our children and grandchildren, who deserve to see this place the same way we saw it, when we came here that first time.
That means it’s all of our responsibility to keep Tahoe blue for future generations to enjoy.