Proposed Shoreline Plan could allow 138 new piers in Lake Tahoe
July 22, 2017
For the first time in 30 years, lakefront property owners could be able to build new piers.
A decades-old disagreement over shoreline development in Lake Tahoe may be coming to an end as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) takes the first of many steps in assessing the environmental impact of its proposed plan regulating piers, buoys, marinas, ramps and slips.
"Shoreline development has a long and complex history in Lake Tahoe," said Brandy McMahon, principal planner for the proposed Shoreline Plan.
The TRPA began regulating the shoreline in 1976 through delineated "tolerance" zones, but in 1987, growing concern about the impact structures could have on fisheries resulted in the prohibition of new structures in fish habitat. Studies eventually showed that the impact was minimal.
Multiple shoreline planning efforts were attempted in 1995, 1999 and 2004 to update the ordinance. This ultimately resulted in the adoption of a shorezone ordinance in 2008. However, a lawsuit by The League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Club challenged the environmental documentation, and the court overturned the ordinance in 2010.
"The agency put in place a partial permitting program, and under the program you could not permit any new piers or moorings such as buoys. All we can do is permit modifications or extensions or applications for repairs to existing structures," explained McMahon.
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In 2016, TRPA again began working to develop a Shoreline Plan, partnering with agencies around the lake — including The League to Save Lake Tahoe — to draft new regulations.
The plan proposes allowing a maximum of 128 new private piers, 10 public piers, 1,430 additional buoys, and two more public boat ramps. It also includes a number of low lake level adaptations to improve lake access. Marinas seeking upgrades would be required to meet certain environmental standards and adopt an aquatic invasive species plan.
By comparison, the 2008 plan allowed for 128 private piers, 10 public piers, 1,862 buoys, six new boat ramps and 235 boat slips.
"We have a set of organizing principles that we're following, and that's really to create a fair and reasonable system of access that would accommodate all users of Lake Tahoe," added McMahon.
The new proposed plan would initially meter out 96 private pier permits, with 12 pier permits released every two years. Priority would be given to piers accessible to multiple property owners or homeowner associations, and the more parties involved, the bigger the pier could be. Two single-owner piers would be granted through a lottery system out of each round of 12 permits.
During the second phase, three new pier allocations would be released for every eight properties that give up their pier development rights.
"Our primary concern for the agency is the scenic impact of new piers. What we decided to do was take a go-slow approach," explained McMahon.
The piers would be distributed between California and Nevada, with 58 going to Placer County, 28 to El Dorado County, 21 to Washoe County and 21 to Douglas County.
The Shoreline Plan is currently in its 30-day "scoping phase."
"The purpose of this period is to solicit input from our board and the public on the environmental impact we need to consider when preparing a draft environmental impact statement, as well as other policy alternatives we need to take into consideration," said McMahon.
The draft environmental impact statement will take roughly six months to prepare, at which point another public comment period will begin. After responding to the comments, a final environment impact statement will be released.
"The goal is to get a shoreline plan adopted by Dec. 2018 and start implementation of the shoreline program in 2019," noted McMahon.
The next public scoping meeting on the South Shore will be held on Aug. 9 at 9:30 a.m. during the TRPA Advisory Planning Commission held at the TRPA offices.