FACT SHEET: At Lake Tahoe Summit, Obama Administration Underscores the Importance of Strong Partnerships and Innovation in Tackling our Shared Climate and Conservation Challenges
Today, President Obama will speak at the 20th Anniversary of the Annual Lake Tahoe Summit about the importance of partnerships and innovation in tackling our shared climate and conservation challenges. The visit builds on other recent announcements, including the 100th anniversary of America’s National Park Service, last week’s designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in north-central Maine, and the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to create the world’s largest marine protected area off the coast of Hawaii.
Like the President’s visit to the Alaskan Arctic last summer and Yosemite National Park earlier this summer, this visit to the Lake Tahoe region provides another vivid example of the new challenges we face as climate change threatens communities and ecosystems through impacts like increasingly frequent and severe drought and wildfires. In 2015, Lake Tahoe experienced its warmest average surface water temperature ever recorded and the west struggled with what may be the worst drought in more than 1,500 years. In keeping with the unique history of collaborative and innovative conservation efforts that have surrounded the Lake Tahoe region for more than two decades, today’s announcements include a series of commitments to build upon the successful conservation legacy at Lake Tahoe, boost innovative approaches to conservation, and address threats to vulnerable communities at another of the region’s key water bodies, the Salton Sea.
After the Summit, the President will travel to Hawaii to address leaders from the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the IUCN World Conservation Congress, and Midway Atoll to highlight first-hand how the threat of climate change makes protecting our lands and waters more important than ever.
BUILDING ON A SUCCESSFUL CONSERVATION LEGACY AT LAKE TAHOE
At the first Lake Tahoe Summit in 1997, President Bill Clinton – joined by Senator Reid as well as other key leaders from Nevada and California – jumpstarted a two-decades-long, successful partnership to restore Lake Tahoe’s legendary water quality, and strengthen the region’s economy for future generations. Since then, Federal, State, and local government partners have invested more than $1.8 billion into projects to restore wetlands, build transit facilities, upgrade roads to reduce polluted runoff, and reduce fire risks from nearby forests. Today, the Administration is building on this commitment with a number of conservation-focused actions impacting Lake Tahoe:
- Providing Hazardous Fuel Reduction Funding and Reducing Wildfire Risk: The Department of the Interior is announcing $29.5 million dedicated for hazardous fuels reduction projects to improve forest health and protect life and property from the threat of catastrophic wildfires. The funding will be used on public and private lands to support the removal of standing dead and dying hazard trees along roads and in campgrounds, administrative sites, communication sites, and the wildland urban interface – adjacent to community infrastructure – in or adjacent to the Tahoe Basin. Since 2002, the Department of the Interior has invested more than $400 million in funding for over 400 projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin that support hazardous fuels treatments, restoration work and the acquisition of environmentally-sensitive lands.
- Investing in a Public-Private Partnership to Improve Watershed Health: The National Forest Foundation – working together with the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and local community partners – is announcing that it has raised over $4 million for forest health, sustainable recreation and creek restoration projects throughout the Truckee River Watershed. This investment will increase the pace and scale of restoration in the region by expanding this effort to include adjoining watersheds as well as providing assistance in forming and facilitating the Tahoe West Collaborative.
- Supporting Improvements in Clean Water Infrastructure and Invasive Species Prevention: The Environmental Protection Agency is announcing more than $230,000 in grant funding for infrastructure to manage and reduce stormwater runoff in the region. The money will improve water quality in Lake Tahoe, which has been degraded by pollution from decades of uncontrolled stormwater runoff. In addition, the Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing nearly $1 million for eight projects to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga mussels from nearby water bodies to Lake Tahoe. These invasive mussels could disrupt the natural balance of the Tahoe Basin ecosystem by degrading water quality and significantly reducing habitat for native species.
BOOSTING INNOVATION FOR CONSERVATION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
America’s lands and waters face growing challenges and increasing importance, especially from the impacts of climate change. In order to increase conservation efforts and meet these challenges, we must strengthen partnership and boost innovation – and, in turn, bring private capital off the sidelines. Built on the spirit of collaboration and innovation that first catalyzed Lake Tahoe’s historic conservation efforts, the Administration is:
Outlining a Strategy focused on “Leveraging Innovation to Boost Private Investment in America’s Natural Resources”: Today, the Administration released a strategy document outlining the potential for increased private investment in conservation to complement existing efforts to tackle the Nation’s climate and conservation challenges, and opportunities for increasing investment by innovating across three areas: policy, finance, and technology. The strategy focuses on promoting policies that reward flexibility and outcome-focused conservation, financing methods to kick start new conservation markets, and technologies to unlock low-cost measurement and verification of conservation outcomes and enable collaboration across previously incomplete landscape-scales. Consistent with the strategy, the Administration is:
- Setting a New Goal to Achieve $10 Billion Per Year in Support for Conservation from Private and Philanthropic Impact Investment: Estimated at approximately $230 million per year at the beginning of this Administration, private and philanthropic impact investment in conservation is increasing rapidly. In fact, a low estimate of current calendar year investment in the United States is approximately $1 billion. By focusing on the innovation strategy laid out by the Administration today, this investment stream can continue to scale.
- Issuing New Guidance on Mitigating Impacts of Development and Incentivizing Greater Conservation: Building on President Obama’s November 2015 memorandum that called for our economic development, infrastructure, and national security goals to be aligned with environmental preservation, the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft compensatory mitigation policy to help address the impacts of development on the nation’s most at-risk species. The policy is the first comprehensive treatment of compensatory mitigation under authority of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to be issued by the Service.
- Announcing Progress on First-of-a-Kind, Market-Based Conservation Approach: This week, the Department of the Interior signed an agreement with Newmont Mining Company to advance a first-of-its-kind mitigation credit system that will protect and restore sage grouse habitat. Along with an agreement signed with Barrick Gold Corporation earlier this year, these agreements highlight ways to enable important economic development while meeting our Nation’s commitment to conservation.
- Expanding Sensor Technology Challenge: The Environmental Protection Agency in collaboration with NOAA and USGS, is extending the Nutrient Sensor Challenge to include transitioning new sensors, developed under the program, into the hands of state, local, academic and other users. Additionally, the agencies announced that they will expand the Challenge to include sensors for detection of harmful algal blooms in surface waters that are a direct result of excess nutrients next year.
- Continuing to Support Innovative Finance for Water Infrastructure: Consistent with the goals outlined in the strategy issued today, EPA announced that it will publish a new playbook for financing non-traditional wastewater projects, like green infrastructure, water conservation, energy efficiency and nonpoint source protection. The playbook will describe examples of innovative financing currently utilized in some states and will highlight various financing options, such as State Revolving Fund assistance, fee programs, issuance of green bonds, watershed financing, interstate assistance, “pay for success” programs, and innovative partnerships.
- Making Progress through the National Drought Resilience Partnership: Today, the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP), a cross-agency Federal partnership, released its first progress report. As of August 1, moderate to exceptional drought is impacting 20% of the United States and nearly 92.9 million people. In 2016, Secretary Vilsack issued Secretarial Drought Designations for all the counties in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The report outlines the work of the Federal partnership, such as co-investing $47 million through USDA and DOI to improve the water efficiency of farms an irrigation districts, and identifying rural communities most at risk for compromised drinking-water supplies as a result of drought, support of the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), providing technical assistance to rural communities and the water and wastewater utilities that serve them, including rural water services in California and Nevada.
BUILDING A PATH FORWARD FOR THE SALTON SEA AND CLEAN ENERGY NATIONWIDE
Today, the Administration is also announcing a package of actions to marshal strong partnership and innovation in support of the communities surrounding the Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, which is facing a tipping point in environmental degradation. A 2014 study from the Pacific Institute, a global water think-tank, found that Californians could face $70 billion in costs, ranging from lower property values to dramatically higher health care costs for respiratory illness, if action is not taken to save the Sea. The actions today, in close partnership with the State of California, will support implementation of the State’s Salton Sea Task Force Agency Action plan, help boost the region’s climate resilience through innovative conservation approaches, spur economic growth by developing new clean energy resources, improve public health and provide a path forward for the Sea. The Administration is:
- Establishing a New Partnership Between the Federal Government and California to Accelerate Conservation in the Salton Sea: The State of California and the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a new partnership that prioritizes long-term coordination between the State and Federal government that will facilitate prompt and informed decision-making regarding the future of the Salton Sea. This agreement will help to catalyze appropriate state and federal actions in addressing the natural resources and regional interests associated with the Salton Sea while recognizing the critical role that the Colorado River plays in providing water security for the State of California. Southern California relies on water from the Colorado River and from Northern California to augment limited local supplies. Consequently water supply reliability for a major part of America's economy is interconnected on progress in addressing long term drought on the Colorado River, environmental conditions at the Salton Sea and environmental conditions in California's Bay-Delta region. Each of these critical interconnected areas require a joint state and federal response to ensure success.
- Announcing a $10 Million Goal for Salton Sea Efforts with the Water Funder Initiative Foundations: Today, the Water Funder Initiative, a collaborative of leading philanthropic foundations including the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, announced a goal to provide $10 million over five years to support implementation of a comprehensive plan to protect public health and the environment, enhance drought resilience, and promote renewable energy and restoration at the Salton Sea. The funding could include loan guarantees, civil society support, private sector engagement, economic diversification programs, and other initiatives that benefit wildlife habitats and local communities.
- Advance Collaboration on Renewable Energy Development in the Imperial Valley/Salton Sea Area: The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) has published a Request for Information (RFI) on identifying pathways for aggregating a power purchase between 100 and 250 MW of new geothermal energy from around the Imperial Valley's Salton Sea. The Imperial Valley is home to world-class renewable energy resources, with an existing capacity of over 6000 MW of renewables, and an estimated 1200 MW of additional geothermal resources that are currently untapped. This RFI will serve as a critical first step in exploring how Federal partners could aggregate demand to harness this existing and additional potential for meeting the nation’s clean energy and sustainability goals, while ensuring that development balances with state and federal efforts to conserve the critical wildlife habitats in and around the Salton Sea. In addition, the Department of the Interior will soon finalize the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation plan, which will include provisions to help facilitate permitting of renewable energy and transmission projects in the Imperial Valley.
Focusing on Technology Adoption and Breakthroughs to Boost the Salton Sea Economy and Clean Energy Generation: In addition to evaluating approaches to purchase clean power from the region, DOE is advancing technology adoption and breakthroughs by:
- Convening Key Geothermal Experts for First-Ever Forum on Salton Sea Renewable Potential: DOE will lead a targeted, technical forum with the State of California, and the Geothermal Resources Council in October 2016 to accelerate development of geothermal energy resources in California, particularly around the Imperial Valley’s Salton Sea. The forum will convene a diverse group of stakeholders from government, industry, and research to lay out solutions for new geothermal development while remaining consistent with critical Federal and state conservation planning efforts at the Salton Sea.
- Investing in New Sources of Renewable Energy in the Region: DOE is announcing two projects selected for a total of up to $29 million for the pioneering Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE). Dedicated to cutting-edge research on enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), this field lab could unlock homegrown, geographically diverse, and carbon-free source of clean energy. After a competitive first phase of research, Sandia National Laboratories’ Fallon, NV candidate site, and the University of Utah’s candidate site in Milford, UT were selected for further development. The breakthroughs supported by this research can help improve the technical and economic feasibility of geothermal energy nationwide, including in the Salton Sea area, which features vast geothermal energy potential.
- Developing Innovative Partnerships Around Critical Watersheds: Today, the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is announcing that partnership agreements are being finalized with the Sierra Valley Conservation Planning Program and the Salton Sea Authority totaling more than $17 million for innovative partnerships that will help spur critical air, water, and wildlife habitat conservation planning for the Sierra Valley as well as the Salton Sea, in California. Partners to these agreements propose to contribute another $60 million, more than tripling the Federal investment.