INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The bill calling for the Silver State's secession from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency unless certain benchmarks are met has passed all legislative hurdles and will take effect at the beginning of 2012.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Senate Bill 271 on Friday, according to press officials in the governor's office.
The legislation mandates the amendment of three parts of TRPA's bistate compact, while creating a timeline for the agency's long-awaited Regional Plan Update. Nevada will not withdraw if the U.S. Congress and California approve the compact changes by 2015, and if TRPA approves a new regional plan by Oct. 1, 2013.
Proposed compact changes include ending the requirement that projects and other major decisions be approved by a majority of members from both states; requiring the agency's governing board consider economic conditions in the Tahoe Basin when amending the regional plan; and making it so anyone suing to challenge any part of the basin-wide regional plan have the burden of showing the plan violates the compact.
Kyle Davis, Nevada Conservation League policy director, said the legislation was crafted with input from powerful special interests representing developers and gaming and was opposed by conservationists and scientists.
“Lake Tahoe is the crown jewel of the Sierra Nevada,” he said. “It is irresponsible to gamble the environmental future of the lake to leverage changes to the compact that would make development easier. Furthermore, the lack of public input and thoughtful deliberation about the consequences of this legislation has damaged the opportunity for good faith negotiations in the future.”
The bill could compromise environmental protections responsible for keeping Lake Tahoe's renowned clarity intact, said Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe.
“This legislation undermines the movement to protect Lake Tahoe just at a time when environmental threats facing the lake are the greatest,” she said. “Climate change, urban runoff, invasive species and catastrophic wildfire are all immediate threats to the Lake's sensitive ecosystem.
“This legislation threatens the cooperation needed to restore the lake's environment, and ignores the will of citizens who love Lake Tahoe and want it protected.”
In response to criticism, lawmakers said the bill is not about reducing environmental protections — it instead provides clarity for developers and residents regarding TRPA regulations.
“What we're hoping to accomplish is to see that we can get a Regional Plan up there,” said Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, one of the bill's sponsors. “This is the compromise the state of Nevada is willing to discuss with California.”
Assemblyman Kelly Kite, R-Minden — whose district includes the south end of the lake — said constituents there strongly support the legislation.
“This is not a casino bill, not a rich bill, not a poor person's bill,” he said. “It's about taking care of a true treasure of our country.”
Kite said the bill doesn't take away environmental protections; rather, it is designed to give Nevada a fair say in decisions made at the lake.
— Tahoe Daily Tribune Reporter Adam Jensen and Nevada Appeal Reporter Geoff Dornan contributed to this report.