INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - Whether a proposal to guide development at Lake Tahoe for years to come goes far enough to protect the area's natural environment continues to be a concern for area conservationists.
Laurel Ames, with the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, called the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's Regional Plan Update "unfocused" at a joint meeting of the agency's Governing Board and Advisory Planning Commission at Harveys Lake Tahoe Thursday.
The long-awaited plan contains few binding rules and there are "exemptions to everything," Ames added.
The TRPA released final documents for the Regional Plan Update this week. The agency's November meeting will focus on taking public comment on the documents, according to TRPA. The Governing Board is scheduled to take action on the Regional Plan Update at its Dec. 12 meeting.
In a letter submitted by the TRPA on Tuesday, the Sierra Club contends most of the discussion about the Regional Plan Update to this point has focused on the proposed regulations, rather than how the regulations will accomplish the TRPA's mandated environmental goals, known as thresholds. Thresholds include standards for everything from lake clarity to noise.
"Little, if any, discussion has occurred regarding the status of the thresholds, or the impact the proposed Plan amendments would have on the thresholds," according to Tuesday's letter. "Further, absent from any documents or discussions are any attempts to determine how thresholds will be achieved and maintained."
TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan disputed the club's contention, saying the Regional Plan Update is focused on getting the agency's already stringent standards for environmental quality implemented. She used the lake's clarity as an example.
The Regional Plan Update includes incentives to move development from sensitive land to already developed areas as a way of stemming Lake Tahoe's historic clarity loss. The loss is largely attributed to development increasing the amount of nutrients and fine sediment reaching the lake.
"We think the policies we have in terms of land use will really go a long way," Regan said, adding "We're in a marathon, not a sprint."
Tuesday's letter also raises concerns about monitoring environmental progress and the possibility of allowing local governments greater control over planning. The release of a final water quality plan associated with the Regional Plan Update without a publicly reviewed draft is also a violation of TRPA's rules, as well as state and federal environmental laws, according to the letter.
Regan said she expected a the water quality plan to undergo public review at the Governing Board's meeting next month. The plan does not have the same requirements for public review as an Environmental Impact Statement, Regan said. The agency will continue to work with stakeholders on concerns as the Regional Plan Update heads toward approval over the next two months, Regan said.
The proposal has attracted widespread support, according to agency spokeswoman Kristi Boosman.
"There are very few people that are really against it at this point," Boosman said.
On Wednesday, the TRPA governing and advisory planning boards met in a similar all-day session at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach.
All Regional Plan Update final documents are available on the TRPA website at www.trpa.org.