A new virtual program designed to help residents navigate environmental home landscaping and amenities was made available Monday by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
The program, BMP Designer, is a geographic information system that implements the “best management practices” designed by the agency to help maintain lake clarity, health and watersheds through home landscaping and amenities, according to a TRPA news release.
Best management practices have been an integral part of the TRPA’s environmental criteria for years in an effort to reduce sediment and particles from flowing into the lake, which causes more water turbidity, according to the TRPA website.
In order to be within BMP compliance, a property must have records and evaluations submitted to the agency for review, such as specific drain systems, driveways and vegetation as well as grade of land and anything that can contribute to sediment spewing into the lake.
The program can give the owner different decisions on how they want to approach their BMP compliance, TRPA partnerships and communications officer Kristi Boosman said.
“What’s helpful is (the program) gives you different options for low-cost or high-cost, high-maintenance or low-maintenance ideas,” she said.
TRPA Storm Water Management Program technician Matt Miller said the product is free to use and that it is not mandated people use the system. Homeowners can still use private contractors or certified evaluators to get a report for the agency’s approval.
“The BMP Designer’s purpose is to fill the void that’s upcoming with single-home evaluation,” Miller said.
That void is the funding from grants through local conservation districts that are expiring, Miller said. He said for the past 10 years, people could call the conservation districts to schedule an evaluation for free.
“Some of those grant resources and money are dwindling,” Miller said. “Some of those evaluations will only happen in targeted areas, and we wanted to make it easier for homeowners.”
The program, Miller said, lets people find a property on a map and input the amenities and topography of the home into the system.
BMP Designer can assess if it’s located on a high groundwater table, surface areas are on the lot, areas where vegetation could be implemented to prevent quick erosion and other remedies, he said.
Miller said the program should help expedite the BMP compliance process because people can do the program from their home. He said many times the agency has homeowners who are trying to sell their home or in escrow and they need the certificate to help complete the process immediately.
Currently, the product only is available for single-family homeowners, Miller said, but the agency intends to expand to multi-family and commercial areas in the future.
The product, he said, is accurate but still may lack the human element to evaluate for the final BMP certificate.
“We did some pretty extensive testing (on the product),” Miller said. “I would say it offers a good opinion. You might get some nuances, but at some point it may require a visit by a TRPA member.”
Boosman said the TRPA is trying to focus on large areas rather than enforce BMP compliance on individual homeowners when assessing high-volume sediment areas.
“We will … send letters to inform them to let them know we’re (in their area) for a time frame and make ourselves available for information,” Boosman said. “We’re really trying to incentivize and encourage people to do their BMPs.”
Boosman said a home’s property value can raise if owners complete their BMP compliance; she said homes that protect the basin add value to property, while helping restore lake clarity.
The TRPA’s handbook about BMPs is referenced within the program.