Keep Dangerous Herbicides Out of Lake Tahoe

Target: Jerry Brown, Governor of California

Goal: Prohibit herbicides in the Tahoe Keys, and instead encourage non-toxic methods for dealing with invasive species.

The Tahoe Keys, a network of man-made canals and lagoons on the south shore of Lake Tahoe in California, turn out to be an ideal spawning ground for invasive species. Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed are two of the greatest culprits. When these weeds grow out of control in the keys, they create a dense underwater jungle, reducing water clarity and out-competing native plant species. Because of the seriousness of this problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled in 2015 to allow the use of herbicides on a case-by-case basis, as approved by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Board. However, this decision is in violation of many water and environmental regulations and must be reversed immediately if we want to preserve Lake Tahoe.

Although the intent is to eliminate invasive species so as to protect native ones, the problem is that herbicides do not discriminate–pumping toxic chemicals into the water is counterproductive to the preservation of Lake Tahoe and its ecosystems. Not to mention the potential hazards to drinking water supply. According to Madonna Dunbar, executive director for the Incline Village General Improvement District in Nevada, “Our treatment process in Lake Tahoe is not designed to remove chemicals like herbicides.”

The current goal of the Tahoe Keys Integrated Management Plan is to reduce the biomass of invasive weeds by 80 percent or more. The plan does not aim for total elimination–stakeholders and researches alike realize that this is not a feasible goal, because of the difficulty of eliminating seeds and other materials that could be buried in sediment. Invasive species are a long-term problem in Tahoe, and as such, control measures will have to be sustainable. Herbicides are not a sustainable, long-term solution. The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Board must realize this.

Alternative, non-toxic methods of weed removal that have been proposed include mechanical harvesting, driver-assisted hand pulling, and barrier mats, which can kill or suppress weeds. Tell Governor Brown that these approaches should be the priority in the Tahoe keys and that herbicides must not be allowed to continue to pollute Lake Tahoe.


Dear Governor Brown,

I am writing on behalf of one of your greatest natural resources, shared between California and your neighboring state of Nevada: Lake Tahoe. As I’m sure you know, the Environmental Protection Agency made a ruling last year to allow the use of herbicides in certain cases for the control of invasive species in the Tahoe Keys. The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Board is responsible for approving the use of herbicides in the keys. However, I strongly believe that herbicides should not be an option at all.

This decision violates regulations that are in place to protect our environment and water sources. Herbicides leaching into Lake Tahoe threaten the sanctity of this valuable water supply and also undo preservation efforts for the native species in the lake. I understand that alternative, non-toxic management methods such as barrier mats and mechanical harvesting may be costly and time-consuming, however, these methods are sustainable from an environmental standpoint. Given that invasive species in the Tahoe Keys are a long-term problem, it would be most fitting to institute a management plan that is sustainable and safe.

Please act in support of a safe and healthy future for this beautiful lake and those who depend on it by prohibiting the use of herbicides in the Tahoe Keys.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: tpsdave

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  1. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    keep tahoe blue!


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