Guest column: Thankful for lawsuit against Regional Plan
February 22, 2013
My name is Ellie Waller. I am writing as a volunteer on behalf of many community members concerned about the future of Lake Tahoe.
I attended the vast majority of the Regional Plan Update meetings held by many boards and committees. I participated in the public process and submitted more than 100 pages of comments as well as giving public testimony.
I’d like you to read this with an open mind.
A Research Summary conducted by Cromer Research Group between June 22, 2004, and Jan 27, 2005, utilized eight focus groups: two from inside the basin with north and south shore residents; six groups from outside the basin (Sacramento suburbs, El Dorado Hills residents, Placerville residents, Northern Nevada residents, Los Angeles and Bay Area residents).
Common themes covered: Transportation; Scenic Resources; Wildfire Prevention; Environmental Degradation sources; and Regulations at Lake Tahoe. A strategic telephone survey included 1,800 interviews: A Nevada statewide 600 sample, a California statewide 700 sample, an in-basin residents 400 sample, and a California landowners 100 sample.
In January 2005, Pathway 2007 hosted five public workshops to gather feedback. Combined outreach obtained feedback from approximately 2,500 people.
The collaborative effort reported common themes:
1) The desire for more walking and hiking paths around Lake Tahoe,
2) The desire to better understand rules and regulations and for less complexity,
3) The frustration with increased traffic congestion at Lake Tahoe; and
4) The goal to keep Tahoe a rural, wild place that is unlike surrounding cities and metropolitan areas.
I will let the readers decide if the Regional Plan Update and revised Code of Ordinances have captured the Pathway results of public opinion for the public’s vision of Lake Tahoe for the future.
Many have read the Karlton Ruling (Judge Karlton is the Federal Judge who decided the legal challenge between the League to Save Lake Tahoe and Sierra Club against the TRPA over shorezone issues). The summary judgment is a careful and substantive decision compiled in 66 pages. The heart of the decision is not about legal technicalities or about property rights. Rather, it is about the central mission of the agency as stated in the Compact: “to achieve and maintain the environmental threshold carrying capacities for the region, in a manner that permits orderly growth and development consistent with those capacities.”
Thresholds are defined in the Compact: “Environmental threshold carrying capacity” means an environmental standard necessary to maintain a significant scenic, recreational, educational, scientific or natural value of the region or to maintain public health and safety within the region. Such standards shall include but not be limited to standards for air quality, water quality, soil conservation, vegetation preservation and noise.
We have seen statements from the agencies that are supposed to protect Tahoe actually expressing disappointment with Karlton’s decision. Unfortunately, the Regional Plan Update adopted in December flies in the face of Karlton’s words. The Regional Plan must only permit appropriate orderly growth and development within the framework of said plan, which must achieve and maintain the environmental threshold carrying capacities.
The judge’s ruling provided an opportunity to refocus attention on the reasons govs. Reagan and Laxalt established this agency in the first place – to save a pristine Tahoe for future generations. The job they envisioned has not yet been accomplished.
I would like to thank Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and Friends of West Shore along with many others for expecting nothing less than a Regional Plan Update that accurately reflects protections that achieve and maintain the environmental threshold carrying capacities.
– Ellie Waller is a Tahoe Vista resident and executive director of the Friends of Tahoe Vista.