Independence Lake


Independence Lake Update:

Two residents who shall remain nameless but who everyone can probably guess stopped this editor to share the following information:

  1. What are you, crazy?
  2. The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in Independence Lake are native there.
  3. There shouldn’t be camping around the lake
  4. There shouldn’t be motor boats in the lake, they increase turbidity and the likelihood of zebra mussels.
  5. If TNC didn’t buy it, it would have been bought by a corporation who would have built a resort there and then no locals could use it.
  6. The county owns two roads in there.


What does it mean to us: Independence Lake

Independence Lake has transferred from Sierra Pacific Power Company, to The Nature Conservancy.

This has met with mixed reactions, but it still isn’t clear exactly what impact this change will have on the lake.

To be clear, Independence Lake is part of the entire "cattle in the Sierra" discussion. This editor would never consider development around the lake, and so the claim that the exchange guarantees the area is "protected from development" sounds pretty good.

Unfortunately, I’ve come to understand that term to mean "protected from locals."

There has been a mixed reaction locally. A member of Trout Unlimited in private conversation pointed out that the likely restrictions against motor boats and the limited access to gas powered vehicles will protect the lake against turbidity. He said it would ensure the Lahontan Cutthroat trout.

However, not everyone agrees, as was made clear in a piece from Friends of Independent Lake, HERE. There is concern for continued public access to the lake.

Some locally point out that the trout is not native to the lake.

To be clear, the lake is not for sale. The government owns the lake bed, the water is still owned by NV Energy, the old Sierra Pacific Power, and only the land around the lake is in the exchange.

What this means to us, though, is found in these words from the Nature Conservancy website:

  • 65 percent of Californians drink water that comes from the Sierra Nevada.
  • The lake feeds two reservoirs and the Truckee River watershed.
  • Because of the lake’s 7,000-foot elevation, very little water evaporates, making it an efficient place to store drinking water.
  • The forest floor surrounding the lake is a natural filter, further protecting the water supply.

However, there is something for everyone. Also from the website:

"Independence Lake is an outstanding outlet for nature enthusiasts, hikers and sportsmen alike. Protecting the lake and 2,325 acres of surrounding forestlands will also contribute greatly to the tourism industry, the mainstay economy of the Sierra Nevada."

But, what does it mean? Are they going to buy stuff from Jean’s Sierraville store? How will they simultaneously prevent development and contribute greatly to our tourism industry?

The Prospect recently contacted TNC and its little cousin, the Northern Sierra Partnership, and were assured that public access was part of the plan, but there was no hard information available from that source, and it sounds generally like camping won’t be allowed.

The larger question for some, how will all this change who uses the lake and how they use it?

We’ll keep you posted, but for now, don’t get your hopes up about easy access to Reno’s water supply.


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