8 a.m. Tuesday UPDATE: The fireworks lawsuit was settled late Monday, meaning the South Lake Tahoe shows will go on. Read more here.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — With the South Shore’s Fourth of July and Labor Day fireworks shows in jeopardy, officials this week promoted best practices used among shows on the North Shore.
“As stewards of our own environment on the North Shore, we have taken measures from the beginning of Red, White and Tahoe Blue to ensure our events produce positive outcomes — on the environment and our business community,” said Jim Smith, chairman of Red, White and Tahoe Blue, the nonprofit that hosts a three-day Independence Day celebration in Incline Village and Crystal Bay.
Some of those measures include using biodegradable products in Fourth of July fireworks and conducting lake cleanup efforts immediately after the show and beach and shore cleanups the following day, he said.
“We are, without question, annually humbled by the unified efforts of the community members … who work tirelessly at all hours of the day and night to ensure our lake bottom and its shoreline are cleaner than they were before the event,” Smith said.
The North Tahoe Business Association, which hosts the Kings Beach July 3 Fireworks Show along with its fireworks vendor, is “carefully” reviewing best practices for shows and is “prepared to adopt the necessary appropriate and responsible” ones, said NTBA Executive Director Joy Doyle.
Should additional best practices increase the show’s cost, NTBA will heavily rely on the community to cover expenses through sponsorships, donations, and sales from food and beverage, merchandise and preferred fireworks seating tickets, she said.
“NTBA is committed to protecting our region’s most precious asset, the lake, and to organizing the fireworks show held annually on July 3 at Kings Beach State Recreation Area to the delight of many in celebration of our country’s freedom,” Doyle said.
Smith’s and Doyle’s comments come as the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority faces a lawsuit that alleges debris from last year’s Fourth of July show in South Lake Tahoe washed up on the beach at Marla Bay.
Joan and Joseph Truxler, two residents of PineWild in Marla Bay near Zephyr Cove, filed the lawsuit in November 2013, with Lake Tahoe’s health in mind.
Alleging the debris is a pollutant under federal law, the lawsuit seeks to require LTVA to acquire a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for its fireworks shows — something not required anywhere else in the country.
An LTVA spokesman previously said the ping-pong size balls the Truxlers said they found on the beach didn’t come from the professional show, but rather from “consumer fireworks.”
The lawsuit asks the court to consider imposing against LTVA tens of millions of dollars in fines — up to $37,500 for every mortar tube used in the twice-annual fireworks shows for the last five years.
If the lawsuit can’t be settled by this Thursday, LTVA will cancel its fireworks shows, officials said last week, starting with this year’s Fourth of July display.
It’s a move that could cost the local economy millions of dollars by way of fewer tourism visits during the summer’s busiest holiday weekend.
“This event is so important economically that we must do all we can to preserve it,” Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki said at an emergency LTVA meeting attended by nearly 200 people last Thursday. “Our family will volunteer July 5 to walk up and down the beach to make sure remnants are fully cleaned up. It would a tragedy, travesty and financial disaster if these fireworks were canceled for the Fourth of July.”
Doyle echoed the financial importance of such firework displays at Tahoe.
“If the North Lake Tahoe region didn’t have Independence Day fireworks shows, visitors may choose an alternate destination, which would have a significant negative economic impact on the region,” she said. “NTBA is committed to responsibly producing fun and entertaining events in North Lake Tahoe.”
Other popular Fourth of July fireworks displays in the region include those off Lake Tahoe in Glenbrook and Tahoe City, and at Donner Lake in Truckee.
A mediation meeting between LTVA and the Truxlers was scheduled for Monday in Sacramento.
“NTBA is watching and listening closely to the South Lake Tahoe’s fireworks’ lawsuit and eagerly awaits the final outcome of the lawsuit mediation,” Doyle said.
— The Tahoe Daily Tribune’s Tom Lotshaw contributed to this report.