Caldor Fire’s impact on Lake Tahoe water could last for years

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – As the smoke clears and people return home, life will go back to normal in South Lake Tahoe. But will the lake’s incredible clarity and deep blue waters recover from the Caldor Fire? KRNV’s Ben Margiott spoke to a local expert to find out.

Lake Tahoe is majestic, breathtaking, and what makes living here so special. But could the massive Caldor Fire disrupt this precious ecosystem?

We sat down with Professor Sudeep Chandra who studies Lake Tahoe to find out. He says all the burnt materials, including fire retardant running off into the watershed not to mention all the smoke and ash could reduce clarity in the short term.

“My feeling is that we’re going to see a reduction in clarity this year,” Chandra said. “That’s a no-brainer based on the amount of particles deposited in the lake. Is it going to be 15 feet? 20 feet? I’m not sure about that.”

The waters have already lost 33 feet of clarity in the last 40 years. As for the long-term impacts, that’s what he and many others will be studying.

Chandra explained, “In order to understand the future of the lake, the future clarity, we need to get a handle on how much those particles stay within the water and in the water column and how much they’re contributing to the algal growth and that’s where the jury’s still out.”

Other smaller lakes in Northern California give them clues. “We do know that smoke particles affect how much algae grows, where it grows,” Chandra said. “Does it grow in the top of the water or maybe deeper down into the water?”

Only time will tell. But Chandra is optimistic Tahoe can rebound, though it may take years. “There’s going to be a recovery period,” he said. “It may be a few years to a decade.”

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