Officials to Gather for Annual Lake Tahoe Forum

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Efforts to protect one of the world's most famous lakes will be considered Thursday when state and federal officials gather for the 8th annual Lake Tahoe Forum.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton, Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., are among those scheduled to attend the gathering at the Ponderosa Ranch in Incline Village.

The first forum coincided with the 1997 Presidential Summit, when then-President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore visited Lake Tahoe and pledged efforts to protect its fading clarity.

Topping the agenda will be the lake's ongoing Environmental Improvement Program (EIP) and fire protection plans.

"We see the forum as an opportunity to bring together all the participants in implementing" the EIP, said Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe environmental group.

"Scientific information is a big part of the EIP and we expect significant discussion of the latest scientific developments,' she added.

The EIP was established in 1997 and calls for more than 700 restoration projects at a cost of $908 million.

Last year, Congress passed legislation authorizing $300 million to fund the program.

Earlier this year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called on Tahoe fire officials to have fire protection plans prepared by August.

She wants to secure funds from the Healthy Forest Restoration Act to finance tree-thinning projects at Tahoe.

Feinstein and Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn will not attend the forum, citing scheduling conflicts. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger does not announce his schedule more than a day in advance.