Derrek Aaron
Special to the Bonanza

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December 11, 2012
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Guest Column: Be informed about the Regional Plan Update vote

LAKE TAHOE - "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

Surely most people who read this article are familiar with Yogi Berra and his endearing Yogi-ism quotes. Yogi was a baseball player for the New York Yankees and he uttered this phrase about a restaurant he used to visit in his home town of St. Louis.

If any "Yogi Berras" live in the Tahoe basin, undoubtedly they will be uttering this phrase as well in the years to come.

The TRPA Regional Plan Update will be voted on December 12 and it will be the road map for the use of Lake Tahoe basin land for the next 20 years.

Building heights and density will be increased to potentially build up town centers. Ski resorts, as always, are expanding.

And grab a hold of your seats folks because the TRPA is proposing a new designation for open space that will allow commercial and residential development - hotels, residential condos and commercial facilities.

Not to beat a dead horse, but most of us are familiar with Boulder Bay and the special height allowances awarded this project. Under the new code these allowances may also be extended to future projects if pursued by a developer.

The RPU will increase allowed densities for hotel/timeshare/fractional by 160 percent. For example, allowed TAU (tourist accommodation units) density will be increased from 15 units per acre to 40 units per acre. Multi-family will increase from 15 to 25 units per acre.

Today, most open space is zoned as "Conservation" or "Recreation," but under the RPU, 320 acres will be designated as "Resort Recreation" permitting tourist accommodation hotels and single family residences and commercial.

The following open spaces are affected: 250+ acres owned by Edgewood (old Pony Express Stop) and 65 acres at the top of Ski Run Boulevard (part forest/part Heavenly parking lot) owned by Vail. According to a recent change in the 208 Water Quality Management Plan, another 320 acres could be allowed within the next four years. The precedent for future uses has already begun. The skids are greased. Sit back and reflect on that, folks.

In Northstar's new master plan, Vail at Northstar is also trying to change the zoning on 500 acres of timberline production land inside the basin to allow ski runs, lifts, gondolas, support facilities. Will a proposed Habitat Management Plan save these lands?

The bottom line is that Lake Tahoe is still very sick. The U.S. Geological Survey published an article in 1997 (pubs.usgs.gov/fs/FS-100-97/) and states the following: Resource-management agencies, such as TRPA, need long-term water-quality data to assess the effectiveness of both current and new projects and regulations. It has been known since the 1950s Lake Tahoe clarity has been deteriorating, due to the following:

• Increased development included urbanization of wetland areas that had formerly served as zones for retention of sediments and nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and iron),

• Development on steep mountain sides with consequent sediment erosion,

• Discharge of septic and sewage systems within the basin; and

• Increased airborne nutrients from automobile emissions and wood-burning stoves.

TRPA claims that lake clarity is stabilizing based on their interpretation of UC Davis "State of the Lake" reports from the past 10 years.

I am not a scientist, but I don't think 10 years is adequate to trend long term lake clarity.

I grew up in upstate New York and went to school in Albany. Lake George is a well known resort lake just north of Albany.

A recent article about Lake George in the Adirondack Explorer magazine (Nov/Dec 2012) explains how the lake is suffering the same Asian clam invasive species angst as Lake Tahoe. The article also states that it is not just invasive species that are harming Lake George's legendary water quality, but also storm water runoff from highways and development that is increasing siltation and adding nutrients to the lake leading to algae blooms.

Does this sound all too familiar? It should because it is also reality here.

The article goes on to say that the economic future of the watershed -property values, tourism, business - relies on maintaining the lake's water quality.

In the late 1960s, lake clarity was measured at approximately 100 feet. Imagine what lake clarity was before modern man stepped in and took over. Imagine.

The RPU vote is 12.12.12. Be there.

Derrek is a four-year resident of Incline Village. He is a CPA and Systems Integration/ Management Consultant.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 11, 2012 08:30PM Published Dec 11, 2012 08:30PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.