Senate OK's Spending For Tahoe Restoration

Lake Tahoe
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The Senate has approved tapping profits from Clark County federal land sales to spend a record $50 million for Lake Tahoe conservation.

The spending was included in a 2004 Interior Department bill senators approved Monday and sent to President Bush. The House approved the bill last week.

Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., engineered the Lake Tahoe funding through an amendment that changed the way profits are distributed from Bureau of Land Management land sales in southern Nevada.

The measure allows $300 million over eight years to be directed to projects to restore Lake Tahoe's water clarity.

Ensign hailed approval of the measure as "an unprecedented commitment to the future of the lake."

The Interior bill contained other provisions affecting Nevada, but dropped an offer by Barrick Gold Corp. to donate 15 acres in Nye County to the National Park Service.

The property surrounded the played-out Bullfrog gold mine that Barrick closed in 1998. The company proposed transferring the land to the government to store equipment for nearby Death Valley National Park.

Barrick spokesman Vince Borg said the company would not get any economic benefit or tax break by donating the land, and would keep looking for ways to donate it.

The bill authorizes $8 million in Nevada projects for BLM land purchases, including $1 million each for the bureau's California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko and for BLM land transfers in southern Nevada.

The latter could help establish management plans for the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, help the BLM transfer land to Clark County for a shooting range, and pay for land studies for Henderson State College.

Another $3.6 million would go for the Indian Health Services Regional Youth Treatment Center in Wadsworth; $1.25 million for the Nevada Biodiversity Initiative; $500,000 each for Lahontan Cutthroat Trout restoration and a U.S. Geological Survey mineral inventory in Clark County; and $275,000 to help the University of Nevada, Las Vegas designate the Walking Box Ranch south of Las Vegas as a national historic home.