New requirements for fireworks shows | TahoeDailyTribune.com

New requirements for fireworks shows

Proposed permit terms spell out the steps Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and Pyro Spectaculars North must take to hold their Fourth of July and Labor Day fireworks shows, following the settlement of a lawsuit alleging debris from the shows falling into the scenic mountain lake was a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District will be responsible for issuing permits for the fireworks shows, a 30-year South Shore tradition that almost came to an end because of the lawsuit, sparking strong public outcry. The lawsuit was filed by Joan and Joseph Truxler after large amounts of fireworks debris washed ashore near their PineWild home on Marla Bay following last year's shows. It was recently settled with their approval. "We will meet with Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District this month to nail down what needs to be done and get the process going, and for them to educate us and for us to build the framework with them and then execute," said Mike Frye, event and media relations manager for LTVA. "Part of that execution is to relook at the shells we're shooting, to make sure they are going to leave the least residue possible, and then have a pickup program that works in case something does wash up on the beach. We hope it doesn't, like in the previous 33 years." LTVA and Pyro Spectaculars North always have strived to clean up after the South Shore fireworks shows and were taken aback by reports of debris on area beaches following last year's shows, Frye said. "The bottom line to us is the fireworks shows are important to the community and keeping the lake pristine is important to the community as well." As part of the lawsuit settlement, the permit would require surface debris cleanup by a boat crew the night of a fireworks show, surface and underwater cleanup by a boat crew and divers the following day and foot patrols to hunt for debris on area beaches for at least five days after a show. "Much of what is going to be done has been done in the past, but certainly there are some additions to the effort," said Ian Gilfillan, vice president of Pyro Spectaculars North. "Everybody understands the conditions and with a lot of cooperation and organization all of the terms of the permit can be met," Gilfillan said. "We're excited about continuing the great tradition of fireworks in Tahoe and the displays we've provided for years." One new condition is the creation of a phone and email hotline for people to report complaints about fireworks debris. The hotline would be up for at least three months after a fireworks show. "That will be beneficial to the whole process, and that's why it's in there," Gilfillan said. Another new permit condition would be the creation of an official event log. Once completed, the log would be provided to the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Nevada Department of Environmental Protection and also made available to the public. The log would detail all cleanup efforts including the locations and amounts of fireworks debris collected. It also must certify best management practices were implemented for the fireworks show. The Truxlers said they never wanted to see the fireworks shows end and are confident the more formalized process and oversight will allow the popular South Shore fireworks shows to continue and help ensure things are adequately cleaned up. "If we can implement those things, and you can't implement them all at one time, some of them will take some time, the discharge of debris will be significantly less and the lake will be better off. Without a doubt," Joseph Truxler said.

Settlement talks falter in Lake Tahoe fireworks suit

Settlement talks have failed in a lawsuit alleging the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority is violating the Clean Water Act with its twice-annual fireworks shows and debris from the spectacular shows falling into the lake. That raises questions about whether there will be any fireworks shows this year in South Lake Tahoe. "We felt that anything being offered was not in the best interests of the lake, and that's our highest priority, protecting the health of the lake," Joan Truxler said about the impasse in the voluntary settlement talks. Truxler and her husband, Joseph, of PineWild on Marla Bay, filed their lawsuit last November, alleging that large amounts of fireworks debris washed ashore in Marla Bay following a July 4 fireworks show and again following a Labor Day show in September. The lawsuit argues that the fireworks shows are a point source of pollution as defined by the federal Clean Water Act. It further argues the visitors authority must get a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from either the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection or Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to hold the shows. Truxler said the lawsuit, which names the LTVA and Pyro Spectaculars North, which put on the show, was filed only as a last resort after the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and other agencies failed to acknowledge or address concerns about the fireworks debris. She added neither she nor her husband stand to benefit financially if they prevail. "It was out of frustration, and the fact that (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) said they were working on the issue, then Labor Day came and boom, it happened all over again," Truxler said. The Truxlers say they and other neighbors collected more than 8,000 pieces of fireworks debris that washed ashore on Marla Bay beaches as a result of the two shows. The lawsuit was first referred to a voluntary dispute resolution process. The visitors authority, which has not yet replied to the Truxlers' complaint, has described its cleanup efforts after the fireworks shows as extensive and said they involved netting from boats, divers in the water and beach cleanup crews. While the lawsuit does seek to require the visitors authority to get a pollutant-discharge permit for its fireworks shows, there is no injunction in place to prevent it from holding shows, Truxler said. "We don't want to stop the shows. We don't want the shows canceled. We just want responsible cleanup after the shows. We want a legally enforceable permit for the shows that allows public input into cleanup efforts." Other groups, including the city of South Lake Tahoe, are raising the specter of no fireworks shows this year in South Lake Tahoe because of the pending lawsuit. "The issue of residual debris can be solved, unlike the devastating economic impact of canceling our nationally recognized fireworks show on the heels of the driest winter on record," City Manager Nancy Kerry said, calling the potential loss of the fireworks shows "in a word, unnecessary." "The solution of debris can be achieved through improved clean-up efforts, which requires funding, which again can be obtained from events such as the fireworks show," Kerry said. "I've reached out to the Truxlers and their lawyer and offered assistance to develop a solution that doesn't involve canceling the show, which would require their withdrawal of the lawsuit." The lawsuit states that violators of the Clean Water Act face civil penalties of up to $37,500 per violation. It further alleges each of the 200 or more mortar tubes used for each of the fireworks shows over the last five years is a separate violation under the law. With settlement talks failed, the lawsuit presumably will proceed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento. Carol Chaplin, executive director of the LTVA, declined to comment on the case. An update on the lawsuit and its ramifications on this year's fireworks shows is the focus of an emergency LTVA board of directors meeting Thursday, Chaplin said. That meeting starts at 4 p.m. and is open to the public.

Lake Tahoe fireworks a go with lawsuit settled

A lawsuit settlement reached Monday evening allows the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority to continue its Fourth of July and Labor Day fireworks shows, highly popular events that draw tens of thousands of tourists to Tahoe's South Shore. "We're really happy we got a settlement and can keep the fireworks. But we're just as happy that we have greater awareness of the pollution and what we need to do to have better cleanups," said Joan Truxler, who with her husband Joseph sued LTVA after large amounts of fireworks debris washed up on area beaches last summer. "We're thrilled we got it settled. That's what we all wanted." The Truxlers filed their Clean Water Act lawsuit against LTVA and Pyro Spectaculars North, the fireworks show operator, last November, alleging that they and neighbors collected more than 8,000 pieces of fireworks debris on beaches near their PineWild home on Marla Bay. The lawsuit alleged the debris is a pollutant under federal law and sought to require the LTVA to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for its shows. Potentially facing tens of millions of dollars in civil penalties and high costs to defend itself, LTVA threatened to pull the plug on this year's fireworks shows unless the lawsuit was withdrawn by Friday. The parties met for a settlement conference in U.S. District Court in Sacramento and reached an agreement that calls for increased local agency oversight of cleanup efforts. "We wanted to thank everyone for their big efforts toward conclusion and we feel this is a big win for our community in more ways than one," Carol Chaplin, director of LTVA, said in a formal statement. As part of the settlement, best management practices will be prepared for the fireworks shows and made public. Fireworks barges will move a short distance to the Nevada side of the lake and be permitted and overseen by Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District. There also will be a hotline for people to report fireworks-related complaints. In their lawsuit, the Truxlers alleged local agencies, as well as the bistate Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, did not adequately respond to their complaints about fireworks debris. That is when the Truxlers decided to file their lawsuit. "Within 24 hours of someone calling or emailing, someone will be sent out to check on debris or anything having to do with the fireworks," Truxler said about the new hotline. "We now will have a central hotline to give people a voice, and it will be enforced by the fire department, so the voices now will have to be heard." Another proposed change is creation of a Tahoe beautification committee. It would organize business leaders, nonprofit groups, service clubs and individuals that all have expressed interest in helping clean up after fireworks shows, but also function as a year-round effort to clean up area beaches. "Everyone can come together and put their name on a calendar for what day their group will walk beaches and pick up any debris. We are excited to participate and we can show other great towns and cities that we will be a leader in this," Truxler said. The Truxlers were harshly criticized at an emergency LTVA meeting last Thursday by various officials as well as numerous citizens. The couple reported getting threatening phone calls and security at PineWild was increased as a result. "Since that public meeting the phone hasn't stopped (ringing). But what we're really excited about is the negative messages we have gotten have slowly turned into a barrage of positive responses, and that's growth. That's our Tahoe, and we love it," Truxler said. Several members of the South Lake Tahoe City Council met with the Truxlers at their house this weekend and thanked them Tuesday after the settlement was reached. While not a party in the lawsuit, city officials offered to do what they could to allow fireworks shows to continue and ensure they are adequately cleaned up. On Tuesday, officials expressed confidence that both goals could be accomplished. Councilwoman Brooke Laine said the Truxlers showed her the fireworks debris they were finding not only on Marla Bay but down the length of Nevada State Beach. Laine said she regularly visits the park and never saw any debris there. "She told me how I could find it. I went down the same day, looked for myself and found the exact components of fireworks she was talking about — and it's March," Laine said. "So I want to thank the Truxlers for bringing forth an issue we didn't know was there. If I could walk down the beach and not see it. Thank you to them. Their intention was never to get rid of the fireworks, but for protection (of the lake.) If they've done nothing else, they've educated at least one person in this community."

Adopt-a-Beach-Tahoe program launching

Local agencies are kicking off an Adopt-a-Beach-Tahoe program with a party at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course on Wednesday. The program lets people adopt a stretch of Lake Tahoe beach to clean up, similar to the adopt-a-highway program. The effort follows the settlement of a fireworks lawsuit that Joan and Joseph Truxler filed against Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. The lawsuit was filed after allegedly large amounts of fireworks debris washed up on beaches in Marla Bay last year. The program will coordinate regular beach cleanup dates from June 15 to Sept. 15, with volunteers collecting debris, recording what they collect and depositing debris at designated locations. Signs posted at beaches will recognize the groups volunteering to clean them up. Wednesday's launch party at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course is 5-6 p.m. Groups spearheading the Adopt-a-Beach-Tahoe program include South Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, Douglas County, the League to Save Lake Tahoe and the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. South Lake Tahoe City Manager Nancy Kerry said agencies are asking people and service clubs to do what they said they would do when the South Shore feared it might lose its twice-annual fireworks shows because of the lawsuit over debris left behind from the shows: Volunteer to help clean it and other trash up. The program is open to any service club, group, business, family or individual. "We'll be taking on one," Kerry said about city employees, "and we're asking service clubs to join us and take on others." Agencies are also launching a new website for the program, http://www.adoptabeachtahoe.com.

Lawsuit challenges Lake Tahoe fireworks

A Zephyr Cove couple is challenging the ability of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority to put on fireworks shows without a permit to discharge debris or pollutants into the alpine lake. The allegation is that, without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, its twice-annual fireworks shows are violating the Clean Water Act. Joan and Joseph Truxler filed the lawsuit against Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and Pyro Spectaculars North in federal court in Sacramento in November. Joan Truxler was unhappy with trash that washed up on PineWild Beach and other East Shore beaches after a July 4 fireworks show. Over the next month and a half, Truxler reportedly picked up enough fireworks debris to cover 60 square feet. Some of the pieces had Pyro Spectaculars North's name on them, according to the lawsuit. Truxler reportedly observed similar debris problems after a Labor Day fireworks show Sept. 1. The lawsuit briefly mentions surface water sampling done around the fireworks barges in 2001 and 2002. That sampling found higher levels of perchlorate and nitrate after the fireworks shows, but the lawsuit does not raise arguments about their potential to harm public health or the environment. Mike Lozeau, a Bay Area attorney representing the Truxlers, said they decided to file the lawsuit after contacting local agencies with concerns and getting no response, other than from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which Lozeau said has no authority to regulate discharges into the lake. "The goal is to make sure that the mitigations for the fireworks shows are as robust as possible. They do try to pick up the trash, but obviously they haven't been able to get it all," Lozeau said. The lawsuit alleges identifiable point sources need a permit to discharge pollutants into navigable bodies of water. "The federal law kicks in whenever you have a point source," Lozeau said. "Here you have hundreds of mortar pipes that shoot things off into the lake, so it's pretty obvious you have a discharge triggering the permit requirement. For whatever reason, the agencies haven't paid much attention to that." The Truxler family is not trying to end the fireworks shows, but wants them to go through proper permitting channels with adequate public oversight, Lozeau said. "People would have the option to chime in on whether they should even get a permit, or if conditions are sufficient to protect the lake, whether from trash or pollutants." The entities equipped to issue such permits are Nevada Department of Environmental Protection for events in Nevada and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board for events in California, according to Lozeau. "They haven't issued permits for fireworks into water yet, but that doesn't affect the legality. The Clean Water Act decides that," he said. Such permits for fireworks on bodies of water are apparently rare. According to Lozeau and others, including Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, the only jurisdiction requiring permits in California or Nevada is the San Diego Water Board. The requirement there is being challenged, but has not been overturned. Carol Chaplin, executive director of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, declined to comment on the litigation. "I will say we are concerned because the fireworks shows are iconic events on the South shore that we know attract a lot of visitation and have economic impact," she said. Chaplin described the cleanup process after fireworks shows as "extensive" and involving both netting from boats and divers in the water. "The lake is important to us. It is at the center of our destination, and it's important for us to be cognizant of debris that could be in the water," she said. At a settlement conference several months ago, the Truxlers were not interested in a resolution outside of the litigation they decided to file, Chaplin said. Jeff Cowen, a spokesman for Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, said it has worked collaboratively with Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and Pyro Spectaculars North to ensure environmental protections were in place after community complaints. "While there have been cleanup plans in place for many years, no one recalls seeing an outfall like this from a fireworks show in the region. Lastly, TRPA will continue to monitor the displays and take action if necessary to protect Lake Tahoe," Cowen said. The lawsuit notes that violators of the Clean Water Act can face civil penalties up to $37,500 per day per violation.

Short fuse for efforts to save Lake Tahoe’s fireworks

Can a Clean Water Act lawsuit end the long-running Fourth of July and Labor Day fireworks shows at Lake Tahoe, one of the nation's most heavily protected bodies of water? At an emergency meeting Thursday, the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority decided to hold out hope for seven more days to see if a pending lawsuit against its fireworks shows can be settled. If not, LTVA said it will have to pull the plug on the shows, starting with this year's July 4 show. It's one of the area's biggest summer events and calculated to have an economic impact that runs into the millions of dollars. Many people lined up to speak at Thursday's meeting in a strong show of support for the fireworks shows. They ranged from local business owners and long-time residents to city, county and California and Nevada officials. They all encouraged LTVA to continue its fireworks shows, stressed the economic and community importance of the shows — which are a 35-year tradition at Lake Tahoe — and strongly and unanimously urged Joan and Joseph Truxler to drop their lawsuit. The two residents of PineWild in Marla Bay filed their lawsuit last November, alleging large amounts of fireworks debris washed up on an area beach after last year's shows. Included in the debris after the July 4 show were seven ping-pong size balls found on the beach at Marla Bay and removed by public safety workers who confirmed they were filled with explosive powder. However, they posed no immediate threat because they were wet. A LTVA spokesman said at the time the devices weren't from the professional show but were "consumer fireworks" used illegally by someone other than Pyro Spectaculars North, the fireworks show producer. "We are not going to let this fireworks show go. We are going to fight like hell for it, whatever it takes," said Tom Davis, a member of the LTVA board and the South Lake Tahoe City Council. "This goes out to the Truxlers: Drop that lawsuit. They need to tell their attorney that they want to settle this lawsuit, and that they want to settle it now." South Lake Tahoe Mayor Hal Cole called the lawsuit a "sad example" of a litigious society. "It's amazing two people can bring a community to its knees like they have," he said. 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. "There is not a court in the country that has issued an opinion that the Clean Water Act is applicable to intermittent fireworks shows," LTVA attorney Lew Feldman said Thursday. In the past, LTVA has asked both the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control board if it needed such a permit and was told it did not, Feldman said. LTVA does face significant exposure. The lawsuit asks the court to consider imposing 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. Furthermore, it could take years to fight the potentially precedent-setting lawsuit in U.S. District Court, racking up huge bills for LTVA, Feldman said. Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki offered to personally help pick up after this year's fireworks shows if needed. It was an offer shared by nearly 200 other people who attended Thursday's meeting. "This event is so important economically that we must do all we can to preserve it. Our family will volunteer July 5 to walk up and down the beach to make sure remnants are fully cleaned up," Krolicki said. "It would be a tragedy, travesty and financial disaster if these fireworks were canceled for the Fourth of July." California State Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville), said people will be out of work and businesses will go under if the fireworks shows are canceled. "I can't believe that people found some paper scraps on the beach and thought the solution was to attack an American tradition like Fourth of July fireworks," Gaines said in a formal statement. "How about working with the LTVA? How about organizing a volunteer cleanup effort to help strengthen the bonds of this community? How about anything besides environmental blackmail?" After weeks of not publicly commenting on the issue, Carol Chaplin, executive director of the LTVA, challenged some of the allegations laid out in the Truxlers' lawsuit. Joan and Joseph Truxler never contacted LTVA after the shows to express their concerns about the debris and most of the fireworks debris collected on the beach likely did not even come from its fireworks shows, Chaplin said. "Notice of intent to sue was received immediately after Labor Day, so our assumption is that any non-litigious solutions were likely not contemplated," Chaplin said. LTVA board member John Koster called the lawsuit an insult to a community dedicated to protecting Lake Tahoe. "This would be a travesty if we allow these people, two people, to knock out fireworks in Lake Tahoe, one of the top five shows in the country," he said. "This is easy to collaborate and work together and communicate without bringing in the lawyers. We can resolve this and they should drop their lawsuit. Quickly," he said. Reached for comment after Thursday's meeting, Joan Truxler said a mediation meeting with LTVA is already scheduled for next Monday in Sacramento. "Our highest priority is still the health of the lake," Truxler said. "We will not back off on that. We want a legally enforceable permit, because they failed to clean up twice, and without enforcement we find it hard to believe they'll say, 'OK, I'll pick up my toys.'"

Guest opinion: Fireworks lawsuit is unnecessary

With Tahoe South's two annual fireworks celebrations meeting all state and federal standards, a recent lawsuit that could threaten the annual July Fourth and Labor Day events is totally unnecessary. Water quality sampling conducted by the State of California's Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board in Lake Tahoe following the fireworks events has demonstrated that levels of pollutants of concern are negligible within 12 hours of the shows and pose no threat to water quality. In a recent story in the Lake Tahoe News, Lauri Kemper with Lahontan said that because the perchlorate had dissipated her agency determined there were no long-term effects to the lake from the chemical. The water purveyors with intake lines near the barges from which the fireworks are discharged have also never reported any effect on the drinking water source as a result of the display. "The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection encourages the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and its contractors to continue compliance with any applicable local permits, plans or requirements. NDEP does not require additional oversight of the twice a year firework displays," JoAnn Kittrell with the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources told Lake Tahoe News. As one of the most regulated areas in the nation, Lake Tahoe has multiple agencies at the federal, regional, state and local level monitoring all aspects of the area's environment and ecology. The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and Pyro Spectaculars obtain permits from the U.S. Coast Guard and the local fire department each year to conduct the shows. These are the only required permits for events of this type. Since their inception the fireworks have employed a rigorous cleanup protocol. The LTVA also has a pre-event planning meeting for each show with Douglas County Sheriff's Department, South Lake Tahoe Police and the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Marshal. LTVA and Pyro Spectacular have worked collaboratively with the key regulators in the basin — Lahontan, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, in the production of the fireworks. Since the introduction of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System more than 40 years ago, no court in the nation has held that firework displays require an NPDES permit. The fireworks used in the Lake Tahoe shows are designed to burn in the sky. If the shell does not disintegrate the remaining debris is primarily paper, cardboard and string. This is collected from the water after the display. Pyro Spectaculars uses a boat to patrol the fireworks display site for several hours post show and uses nets and other tools to clean up surface debris. The following morning a dive crew and another boat crew are dispatched. Divers cover an eight to 12 acre area, starting at the launch location and working outward, collecting general trash as well as any fireworks debris. While conducting the clean-up the divers have also assisted by removing invasive Eurasian watermilfoil plants from the lake. The LTVA was only made aware of Joseph and Joan Truxlers' concerns about debris after the Zephyr Cove couple contacted media following the July 4 show. Representatives from the LTVA responded immediately to concerns and staff visited the beach and interviewed several year-round residents. Longtime homeowners told the LTVA that they had never witnessed a debris problem with the event. Quite frankly, we're disappointed in what we believe is an unnecessary lawsuit. In 30 years, this was the first time there was any issue — it was an anomaly. LTVA doesn't need to be threatened with a lawsuit. If there's a problem we'll fix it. This organization has always been responsible, engaged and committed to stewardship of the lake. We're involved with numerous partners in various preservation programs to best position Lake Tahoe as a national environmental and business model. As part of our guiding philosophy, we promote our greatest attraction, the lake itself, in an appropriate and sustainable manner. Tahoe is our home, too, and we know its spectacular beauty and clarity is its timeless attraction, and we'll always take that responsibility seriously. The July 4 and Labor Day fireworks displays are among the area's most popular annual events and generate approximately $4 million and $2 million respectively, in revenue to Tahoe South each year helping locally owned restaurants, motels, retail and attractions whose livelihoods depend on tourism. We appreciate the support we've received from residents and businesses throughout the local community and beyond on this issue. Most responses indicate that the majority is tired of needless litigation, rather that the solution is for local cooperation to ensure the continued success of the fireworks and protection of the lake. — Carol Chaplin is the executive director of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

Our Opinion: Time to meet in the middle

If the South Shore community is going to see its long-running, world-class fireworks shows continue this summer, now's the time for some compromise involving the critics and proponents of the events. This is not about taking sides. What we're saying is that finger-pointing won't help to resolve differences. Recognition of all valid concerns will. What won't help is overly harsh criticism of Joan and John Truxler, the Pinewild couple who sued to force the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority to get a federal pollutant discharge elimination permit for its fireworks shows. Obstinancy on the part of the Truxlers won't help either. Consider what state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, said: "I can't believe that people found some paper scraps on the beach and thought the solution was to attack an American tradition like 4th of July fireworks." Since he brought up American tradition, how about celebrating the Founding Fathers' inspired clause guaranteeing the right to petition for a redresss of grievances? That's no doubt how the Truxlers see their lawsuit. And this is more than "some paper scraps." There were hundreds, possibly thousands, of fragments of cardboard and plastic fireworks casings that washed up in Marla Bay or that floated in the water like some new kind of algae. Also, there were seven unexploded flash powder balls that Douglas County firefighters and bomb-squad members carted off, warning Marla Bay residents of the dangers they posed: safe when wet but, once they dry out, more powerful than M-80 fireworks that can maim people. The LTVA's Carol Chaplin would do well to stop saying most of the fireworks debris likely did not come from the LTVA-sponsored fireworks show. The LTVA can argue that the flash powder balls are unexploded "consumer fireworks" that were brought to the lake illegally by individuals. But much of the cardboard and plastic fragments found on the beach obviously were from professional-grade products of the sort used by Pyro Spectaculars North, the company hired by the LTVA to put on the shows. They didn't come from some roadside fireworks stand on an Indian reservation. The LTVA would be better off pushing the idea of a cooperative volunteer effort to clean up any debris from fireworks shows this summer. Many speakers at an emergency meeting Thursday of the LTVA board said they were more than willing to help out in that manner. Those speakers included Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, a Tahoe resident whose family has deep roots on both sides of the South Shore state line, who offered to personally help pick up such trash. Krolicki, whose duties as lieutenant governor include oversight of tourist-dependent Nevada's tourism promotion, would no doubt help organize a broad volunteer clean-up effort if asked to do so. That's the sort of forward-thinking project that the Truxlers and other critics of the mess created by last year's fireworks shows should welcome. The Truxlers have been singled out by many for acting on their own in filing their lawsuit to require a permit for the fireworks shows. But that doesn't mean they lack support from other residents concerned about Lake Tahoe. There's no question that they have some backers in Marla Bay, where many people joined in an effort to clean fireworks debris off the beach last summer. But support from individuals isn't the same as official support. Perhaps the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency could provide some assurances that formal action will be taken in the event of a repeat of last year's problems. What say, TRPA? All this brings us back to this year's fireworks shows. There has to be some middle ground, where the Truxlers' concerns can be met and the South Shore community can enjoy a world-class fireworks show that pumps millions of needed dollars into the local economy. Advocates of the fireworks shows, make the Truxlers an offer they can accept, that meets their stated goal of protecting the health of Lake Tahoe. Give them some iron-clad assurances that will make it possible for them to consider dropping their lawsuit. To the Truxlers, we know you love the lake and want it protected from environmental damage. Be assured you're not the only ones. And if you can be open-minded and reach a middle ground in your negotiations, know that your lawsuit succeeded in getting the discussions to that point and park it on the sidelines for now. If there's a post-fireworks show clean-up that goes far beyond any such efforts in past years, that's great. If there's another mess, then you can consider reviving the litigation — if you must.

Adopt-a-Beach Tahoe program launching

Government officials and environmental groups want to turn Lake Tahoe Visitor Authority's new obligation to comb beaches for debris after its July 4 and Labor Day fireworks shows into a year-round Adopt-a-Beach Tahoe program. The tourism agency must go through a new permitting process with Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District for its fireworks shows after settling a lawsuit that alleged debris left in and around the lake from last year's shows was a Clean Water Act violation. The agency is recruiting teams of volunteers to comb beaches from Edgewood to Marla Bay after this year's shows. Volunteers will be outfitted with sifters and buckets and garbage bags to collect fireworks debris and other trash, as well as clipboards to take detailed notes about what fireworks debris they find and where they find it. The tourism agency must issue a report documenting beach cleanup efforts and prove it has met the terms of its permits — in addition to other cleanup involving boats, nets and divers. But South Lake Tahoe City Manager Nancy Kerry said she and others see a chance to turn that effort into something bigger. When the future of the fireworks shows was uncertain because of the lawsuit in March, a large turnout of people said they would do whatever it takes to keep the shows going. That turnout included South Shore residents, business owners and service clubs as well as government officials from both California and Nevada. "We need everyone out there July 5. But we see an opportunity to say this is about more than just solving a problem to keep an event," Kerry said. "Clean and pristine beaches are key to keeping people coming back and it's the right thing to do. We're envisioning a community-wide event. Let's own the beaches and take care of them. People were saying they would do anything to keep the fireworks, so we're confident we'll see a good showing." For as much as South Lake Tahoe takes pride in its mountain lake and scenery, there has never been a formally organized lake-wide beach cleanup effort, said Carol Chaplin, director of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. "We hope this will take on a new momentum that goes beyond our borders for the fireworks permit," Chaplin said Wednesday as officials kicked off the adopt-a-beach program at Edgewood Tahoe. Officials said they want businesses, service clubs, nonprofit groups, neighborhoods and families — anyone with a couple hours to spare a few times a month — to adopt a beach to help clean up. Participants in the program will be recognized on signs put up at adopted beaches. Nancy Gibson, supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said that agency supports the program. The Forest Service has a number of beaches people can volunteer to help clean and hopefully those efforts will set a positive example and cause others to be more responsible with their trash and pick litter up, Gibson said. While the Adopt-a-Beach Tahoe program is focused on the South Shore initially, officials said they want it to grow into a basin-wide program. The environmental group League to Save Lake Tahoe supports the program and is ready to help with its staff and volunteers, said Marilee Movius, its community engagement manager. "I think it's wonderful to see groups coming together for a common goal to protect the lake and our beaches," Movius said. Working with a dozen students and two teachers from Douglas County High School, League to Save Lake Tahoe collected 59 pounds of trash from El Dorado Beach after the Memorial Day weekend. Aaron Hussmann, a community engagement associate for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said he hopes that the enthusiasm people showed about keeping the fireworks shows translates into lots of volunteers and action. "If we can pick up 59 pounds of trash in an hour, just imagine what hundreds of volunteers across many beaches could pick up," he said.

Fireworks debris washes up on East Shore

Debris associated with pyrotechnics is washing up on several East Shore beaches. Wads of cardboard and brown paper, wiry red fuses and plastic cup-like backings are just a few of the items that have been found in the area. "It has filled up a large garbage bag," said PineWild resident Joan Truxler, who's been picking up the garbage. "We have never seen this before on PineWild Beach. It's just alarming." Two organized shows — Lights on the Lake and the Glenbrook display— took place nearby where the debris is washing up. Both of the shows' organizers are required to have cleanup plans as part of the permit process. Though some of the papery material could be from the shows, both organizers recognized other found materials as being from consumer-grade fireworks. "It looks to me like a mix of debris, some of it from the Lights on the Lake and some smaller items from an unauthorized private firework discharge," said Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District fire marshal Eric Guevin. His department did not receive any reports of illegal fireworks being set off, Guevin said. But, if the illegal fireworks were set off simultaneously to the larger legal shows, they may have been inconspicuous, he added. Pyro Spectacular Inc., which engineers Lights on the Lake, does multiple sweeps with boats, nets, divers and staff on land to collect fireworks debris. This year the company picked up about 15 bags of debris, said Mike Fry, a spokesman for Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, which contracts Pyro Spectacular. "Pyro has been shooting our show for over 30 years," Frye said. "They are very responsible and do their very best to leave nothing behind." Pyro Guys, which organizes the Glenbrook show, uses fireworks created with primarily biodegradable material, said pyrotechnics operator Jeff Coonce. They also do multiple sweeps for fireworks debris in the vicinity of their show. "I even have a guy that stays in his car, so he can sweep the beach at first light," Coonce said. For Truxler, the mess on the nearby beach and the stench of the debris — much of it now in bags at her house — has caused her to question the importance of fireworks at Lake Tahoe. ""I think as a community we should come together and decide are fireworks a viable way to celebrate the Fourth of July," she said. "We live in a very fragile environment and I think that should take precedence over one day of the year when we do significant damage."