Nevada to Upgrade Drains to Stop Tahoe Pollution

     LAS VEGAS (CN) — The Nevada Department of Transportation has agreed to implement an enhanced stormwater management plan to curtail pollutants from flowing into lakes, rivers and other water sources, including Lake Tahoe, from roads and maintenance yards overseen by the department, according to a settlement filed in Federal Court.
     The settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection resolves alleged violations involving the department’s Clean Water Act permit for stormwater runoff.
     The parties filed the agreement, formally known as a consent decree, last week. A complaint on the violations, which stem from a 2011 audit by the EPA, was filed at the same time.
     The department has agreed to pay $60,000 each to the EPA and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.
     The agreement also requires the agency to spend $200,000 to upgrade water-quality monitoring to provide real-time data to the public, implement a public-relations program and develop statewide digital maps displaying where the department discharges stormwater.
     State officials said the department is spending more than $13 million for a new stormwater division with 59 employees and $7.6 million in equipment to control runoff, such as trucks to flush culverts and sweepers.
     “We are incorporating a stormwater element into all of our projects,” Meg Ragonese, a department spokeswoman, said in an interview.
     For example, the department plans to install enhanced roadside drainage inlets and sediment-filtration systems alongside highways on the north and east sides of Lake Tahoe.
     The agency already has made improvements to its maintenance yard in Reno designed to preserve the quality of water flowing into the nearby Truckee River, officials said.
     “Nevada has chosen to invest in a strong program to preserve one of our greatest natural resources,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a prepared statement. “I would like to thank the EPA for its cooperation as we developed a plan that best suits our state (and) our resources and creates a sustainable path forward.”
     The filing of the consent decree opens up a 30-day period for public comment.

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