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Basin Topics > Noise

The Lake Tahoe Basin is admired for its beauty and tranquility. Most of the tranquility is nestled in the forests and mountains where views of the Lake either inspire thought and relaxation or energy and invigoration to explore. The Basin is a place visitors can come to get away from the stresses of daily life, and tranquility is a key factor in creating such an environment. The murmur of breezes and songs of birds are sometimes disrupted by excess noise. There are many sources of noise pollution in the Basin that not only affect visitors but also disturb residents and wildlife.[Photo]: Aerial view of Tahoe Keys with boats and channels.   Copyright: Larry Prosser
Five sources of noise pollution in the Lake Tahoe Basin come from modes of transportation for either recreation or every day use. The sources are off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, motorboats, airplanes and vehicles. In the winter, vehicles with tire chains enhance the noise generated by vehicles. Also, traffic generates “noise corridors” along highways. Other noise pollution sources include stereo systems, construction activities, timber cutting, disruptive human gatherings and barking domestic dogs.
Consequences of noise pollution include human health effects and disturbance to wildlife in their natural habitats. There is evidence that prolonged exposure of humans to noise of 80 decibels or higher can cause hearing loss. Also, noise can cause aggravation and result in elevated stress and blood pressure levels, and interrupt sleep, which can lead to fatigue and loss of productivity. Although these studies relate to humans it is possible that wildlife react to noise in many of the same ways. Wildlife can experience hearing loss, habitat loss, stress and disrupted sleep due to noise pollution; however, the level of noise that causes disturbance can vary between humans and wildlife.
[Photo]: Aerial view north of Fallen Leaf Lake, Emerald Bay, and Lake Tahoe   The goals for noise regulation in the Basin are to reduce or eliminate activities that produce distressing or damaging noise levels, and attempt to provide for community and neighborhood tranquility. Environmental thresholds for noise are difficult to calculate since individuals react differently to noise sources. Noise is measured by decibels that quantify acoustical energy, and regulated by determined levels of disturbance. Duration is another factor in noise regulation with short-term, loud bursts of noise energy having a different impact than long-term, less energetic noise.