LAKE TAHOE — Both the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and League to Save Lake Tahoe are celebrating a ruling in the shorezone lawsuit handed down last Wednesday by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The lawsuit over TRPA's shorezone policy was first filed by the League in 2008. After a federal ruling against TRPA in 2011, the agency appealed portions of the judgment.
Wednesday's ruling concerns the way TRPA determines the baseline number of buoys on Lake Tahoe. The baseline helps the agency determine the maximum amount of buoys, piers and other boating facilities that can be allowed on the lake.
“What the ruling did was give the TRPA direction on the parameters of the environmental analysis documents required to move forward on a shorezone policy,” TRPA spokeswoman Kristi Boosman said in an email.
In essence, the ruling gave the agency the discretion to establish a baseline.
“We appreciate the Court's respect for the Agency's expertise in determining how best to identify critical environmental impacts,” TRPA executive director Joanne Marchetta said in a statement. “We need to take into account the reality on the ground when analyzing the effects of our policies.”
In 2006, TRPA determined there were 4,454 permitted and non-permitted buoys in Lake Tahoe. Given that as a baseline, TRPA formed the “maximum build-out” piece of its shorezone policy, which would have allowed about 1,800 additional buoys and more than 100 additional piers to be permitted.
“We wanted to establish a cap on the piers and buoys, which had not existed before,” Boosman said.
The League, in its 2008 lawsuit, argued if TRPA had only used legal and permitted buoys in its baseline, the threshold for measuring environmental impact would be much lower, and the maximum amount of allowable buoys and piers would have also been lower.
“More buoys means more boats, which means more pollution impacts,” League spokesman Carl Young said.
As part of Wednesday's ruling, TRPA will have to re-evaluate the previous baseline and analyze the boat pollution that legalizing the non-permitted buoys would have. Until then, the TRPA is not issuing permits for any new boating facilities.
Currently, work on the long-awaited Regional Plan Update is TRPA's priority, Boosman said. She hopes last Wednesday's ruling will open the door for all parties involved to get together and figure out a solution for the shorezone plan.
“It gives us an opportunity to bring all the parties to the table and reach a conclusion,” Boosman said.