January 23, 2013 | Back to: News

Guest Column: A true and steadfast champion for Lake Tahoe

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - As a (private) pilot I recently demonstrated a stall to a flight instructor as part of my biennial flight review. Let me explain.

An airplane needs thrust and lift in order to fly. The thrust is provided by the engine and the lift is provided by constant and undisturbed air flow pressure over and under the surface of the wings. Once this constant air flow is disturbed, the plane may stall - it may fail to stay aloft.

Several reasons for the air flow disturbance are ice accumulating on the wings or perhaps the wings exceeding their critical angle of attack - basically this means the plane has ascended or descended at an angle that prevents the air from flowing smoothly around the wings.

So why did I begin my article with an explanation, albeit very elementary, of aircraft aerodynamics?

Lake Tahoe is very sick. It is under attack by pollution from vehicles (exhaust emissions, oil, windshield wiper fluid) and runoff from development; the more roofs, yards, gardens and impervious surfaces such as driveways and pavement we build the less natural surface area these pollutants (fine particles, fertilizer, pesticides and chemicals) to filter through the soil.

As a result, the lake needs a champion that can provide steadfast, reliable stewardship in support of restoration, and, also very importantly, legal protection.

Over the years, the League to Save Lake Tahoe has provided such stewardship and legal care, but its recent mission (commitment) is to avoid litigation in an effort to help communities move forward.

This sense of community and collaboration is very commendable, but it won't support the small towns and villages around the lake that have to deal directly with developers who may present plans not in scale with that of the surrounding neighborhood.

Recently, the Friends of West Shore had to defend their town, with the help of the public interest (environmental) law firm Earthjustice, against the Homewood Mountain Ski Area Master Plan (owned by JMA Ventures).

Judge Shubb ruling over the case halted JMA's plans to begin development and made the following comments: The EIR-EIS (environmental impact report/study) misleads the public by suggesting that (ski lift) ticket sales revenue is the only relevant factor in assessing the financial viability of Homewood..."

Judge Shubb also ruled that no construction can begin until a "legally adequate" EIR-EIS that considers a scaled-down project had been prepared and circulated.

Ron Grassi, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, made the following comments after the ruling: "The judge agreed that the developer provided an incomplete financial picture of a smaller-sized and less harmful project, so that it was never given a fair chance. A multi-million dollar development doesn't have to be huge to be successful."

The Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore referred to the project as "a wall-to-wall mass of buildings that climb 77 feet up the face of the Homewood ski slope" that doesn't fit with the community, and doesn't protect the lake.

With that said, can you blame Homewood for wanting to protect their community? No one wants to travel down the tedious, time and energy consuming litigious path. But it would also be helpful if the interests that want to invest in small towns like Homewood did so with the most transparent plans and intentions.

While I hope the League will always exist to provide much needed stewardship for the lake, I hope this will not be their only commitment going forward.

What would benefit Lake Tahoe the most is proactive attention and care (addressing the forces that may potentially contribute to the mess) instead of a reactive mode (cleaning up after the mess).

Granted, the League has been criticized for their previous suits, but it should not cease and desist all opportunities to (legally) protect the lake and its communities. The League is funded by a wide range of supporters and is supposed to be a broad voice for the lake.

It appears now that local communities may have to resort to their own devises and expend much personal time, energy and money in the event of future out-of-scale projects like Homewood. Sure people love and want to protect their communities, but it is an incredible effort to take on a developer which presumably the League is adequately funded and experienced to handle.

So I ask the League: "If you were a citizen of Homewood and felt the ski resort development plans were not in line with your vision for the town, what would you do?"

- Derrek Aaron is a five year full-time resident of Incline Village. He is a CPA and Systems Integration/Management Consultant.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 23, 2013 05:53PM Published Jan 23, 2013 05:52PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.