Meeks Bay Restoration Project

According to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), “The deteriorating condition of the existing marina infrastructure, along with concerns over water quality, aquatic invasive species, and degraded habitat for native species have prompted the need for action in Meeks Bay.” The marina has been shut down for several years, originally due to low lake levels; however in recent years high pollution levels have been detected in water samples, prompting additional actions by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. The USFS is proposing a project that will remove the existing marina and move the Meeks Creek stream channel and wetland/lagoon below State Route 89 (SR89) to a more natural functioning condition, add a new public pier and boat ramp on the southern end of the Bay, and make other changes to the existing campground and resort, including parking, vehicle circulation, pedestrian and bike paths, and other aspects of the resort.

Specifically, the proposed project will include the following activities:

1. Aquatic Invasive Species Eradication
2. Remove the existing marina infrastructure
3. Restore Meeks Lagoon in the location of the existing marina
4. Restore Meeks Creek from the SR 89 crossing to the confluence of Lake Tahoe
5. Install Utility Infrastructure
6. Implement Resource Protection Barriers
7. Wildlife Enhancement Actions
8. Construct a Pier
9. Construct a Boat Launch
10. Reconstruct Boat Trailer Parking and Vehicular Circulation Routes
11. Reconstruct Meeks Bay Campground
12. Install Pedestrian Connectivity Routes
13. Install Interpretation Opportunities
14. Construct Day Use Parking Areas
15. Implement Shoreline Stabilization Measures
16. Install Best Management Practices

FOWS Concerns:

Location of new pier and boat ramp:

While Forest Service staff stated that permanent restoration of the marina area to a naturally-functioning lagoon is necessary to meet water quality objectives, the project proposes locating a new pier and boat ramp on a beautiful sandy beach area on the south end that is extremely popular with locals and visitors for enjoying a variety of non-motorized recreation activities (such as relaxing on the beach, picnicking, kayaking, paddle boarding, and swimming). The construction of a new pier and boat ramp in this location would significantly degrade these experiences and reduce the extent of beach available to non-motorized users. FOWS recommends alternative locations on the northern end of the bay be evaluated in the EIR/S/S.

Loss of campsites and parking spots:

The proposed project would include modifications to the campground that could result in the loss of up to 20% of the existing number of campsites, including a reduction in the number of affordable tent-camping sites that are popular with visiting families. Changes may also reduce the number of available parking spaces, posing problems for access to the bay, especially considering parking already overflows onto the highway during peak periods and most popular summer weekends.

Project Status:

In September 2018, the U.S. Forest Service, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency jointly issued a Proposed Action for the Meeks Bay Resort and Marina, along with the Notice of Preparation/Notice of Intent (NOP/NOI) to prepare an environmental impact report/statement/statement (EIR/S/S). All associated documents can be accessed here.

FOWS submitted comments on the NOP/NOI and included issues of concern and questions that should be evaluated in the environmental review based on the feedback we heard from our members and other interested public.
December 2019: The USFS is developing alternatives based on comments received during scoping. Alternatives may include the proposed action (remove the marina, restore the lagoon, and add a new public pier and boat ramp to the south end of the bay), other variations or locations for the pier and boat ramp, and an option involving partial restoration of the lagoon and/or rehabilitation of the marina. Due to administrative issues surrounding contracts and funding, and the time it will take to perform an extensive environmental analysis, the USFS does not anticipate release of the draft Environmental Impact Report/Study until winter 2021.