Lake Tahoe depends upon a fragile balance between the natural environment and human stewardship. It holds 123 million acre-feet of water, twice as much as all other California lakes combined. With only the Truckee River as an outlet and water replacement so slow that a single drop remains in the lake for more than 700 years, pollutants that have entered the lake almost never leave. The lake was losing its clarity at the alarming rate of one foot per year.
The widespread concern over the degradation of the lake led to a presidential forum in 1996 that prompted new and expanded efforts to protect the Lake's ecosystem. The County of El Dorado Environmental Management Division (EMD) responded by taking the lead in a comprehensive Marina Program to educate the boaters using Lake Tahoe and other frequented lakes of the county about proper bilge oil control. The program was initiated with outreach events at Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake at 17 of the 19 public access marinas each summer over a four year period and expanded over a 7 year period to also include Jenkinson, Folsom, Echo, Ice House, and Union Valley Reservoir.
Action Plan and Overview:
Environmental Management (EMD) worked to survey the boating community and found that while nearly all were familiar with proper used oil disposal, less than a third of them were properly managing their boats oily bilge water. EMD began a campaign to educate boaters. Clean Boating Kits were distributed with educational flyers which promoted clean boating practices and focused on preventing pollution from contaminated bilge water. Kits include oil absorbent pads with plastic bags for their disposal along with a safety ski flag, floating key chain, golf towel and bucket each imprinted with the programs logo. Boaters we informed that used oil absorbent pads/pillows could be returned to the marina or taken to a household hazardous waste (HHW) event for proper disposal and that additional absorbent pads/pillow are available at the marinas upon request. EMD's clean boating outreach events took place regularly thought the summers of 2000-2007 at the larger marinas of El Dorado County’s popular boating lakes.
Numerous public and private entities worked together with EMD on this project to preserve and enhance the area's natural beauty. The program has been very successful, as evidenced by the changes in the attitudes of boaters over time.
This innovative program has served as a state and nationwide model for marina education. The environmentally responsible and cost effective management of used oil provided by this program, along with increased public and boater awareness, are vital to protecting this very special environment. Without a program focusing on lake ecosystems, the impact of illegal disposal of oil from poorly maintained watercraft and oily bilge water discharge would have continued. Boat owners would not be aware of the consequences of their actions and would not have the means to effectively manage disposal. As a result the negative impact on the aquatic environment would continue and the clarity of Lake Tahoe and other lakes would continue to diminish.
Proper use of oil absorbent pads/pillows and disposal locations
Marina Program Maintenance
Today although the outreach events have ended, absorbent pads/pillows and disposal units are still available at the larger marinas of El Dorado County. You are also welcome to request a Clean Boating Kit by calling our Placerville or South Lake Tahoe office to set up a time when you can come by to pick one up.
Photos of the Marina Program at Work