Lake County would receive $2.4 million to improve and protect the ecosystem of its visual and economic centerpiece — Clear Lake — if newly introduced state legislation is approved.
The bill would use dedicated preservation funds from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to help restore wetlands, improve water quality and prevent invasive species such as quagga mussels from entering Clear Lake.
“It’s a great thing,” Lake County Supervisor Tony Farrington said Wednesday of Assembly Bill 367, introduced by Assemblyman Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg.
The bill would offer only a small fraction of the funding needed to tackle the lake’s major problems, but it would help supplement the county’s ongoing efforts to improve Clear Lake’s ecosystem through a variety of other funding sources.
Over time, Clear Lake has lost 79 percent of its historic wetlands, Dodd spokesman John Moreno said.
“Several studies have shown that the restoration of these wetlands around Clear Lake would significantly reduce the amount of nutrients available for nuisance algae blooms,” Moreno said.
Aquatic weeds and smelly, potentially toxic algae blooms periodically dominate parts of the lake, keeping boaters and tourists at bay and lakeside residents indoors with their windows closed.
The lake, considered the county’s best asset and biggest tourist draw, is crucial to the county’s ailing economy.
Farrington said AB 367 may be the most substantial request for funding for Clear Lake improvements made by state legislators.
“Clear Lake and Lake County have been neglected for many years,” he said. He said he’s heartened that Dodd and McGuire have heeded county officials concerns about the lake.
“Clear Lake is the heartbeat of Lake County and it is time for the state to step up its investment in protecting this incredible environmental and economic resource,” Dodd said in a written statement.
The ongoing efforts to protect and restore Clear Lake include purchasing land along the northwest shore as part of the 1,650-acre Middle Creek wetlands restoration project.
The legislation follows failed county efforts to win voter approval for a sales tax increase that would have funded an estimated $24 million worth of projects over 10 years.
There have been discussions about another tax proposal among groups representing farming, business and real estate, but there are no current plans to revive the sales tax measure, Farrington said.
“To actually manage Clear Lake, we need ongoing revenue,” Farrington said.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MendoReporter.