Public access to Lake Tahoe’s Nevada shoreline could look a lot more like California’s access under a law introduced into the Silver State’s legislature.
Unlike California, Nevada law does not provide for public access on private property between the high- and low-water marks at Lake Tahoe. Nevada Assembly Bill 396 would allow access up to the high-water mark of public waters in the state.
“Subject to certain specified restrictions, this bill authorizes persons to use water that is navigable or capable of being navigated by oar, paddle or motorized watercraft year round at or below the ordinary high-water mark for any otherwise lawful activity that uses water, including boating, fishing, swimming and wading,” according to the legislative digest for the bill.
Jan Brisco, executive director of the Tahoe Lakefront Owners’ Association, said the bill represents a “significant shift” in how property rights operate on the Nevada side of the lake.
Under the legislation, people would also be allowed to carry a kayak around obstacles, like piers, that enter public water.
“If a natural or artificial obstruction interferes with the use of a public access water, a person may, along with his or her vessel, portage around the obstruction in a manner that is reasonably direct and closest to the water to reenter the water immediately above or below the obstruction at the nearest point where it is safe to do so,” according to the bill.
Shoreline property owners would be allowed to place a fence or barrier on their property across lake water, but would be required to include a ladder or gate to provide access around the obstacle, according to the bill.
Lake Tahoe is not specifically mentioned in the legislation and it is unclear whether providing public access to what is now considered private Nevada beachfront is part of the bill’s intent.
Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, the primary assembly sponsor of the bill, did not immediately return requests for comment Thursday. A presentation to the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining last week about the bill focused on the importance of recreation to Nevada. Outdoor recreation generates $14.9 billion in consumer spending and 148,000 jobs in the state, according to the presentation.
Dave Steindorf, California Stewardship Director for American Whitewater, said he wasn’t aware the bill could have an effect at Lake Tahoe. The river advocacy group supports the legislation. The support centers around clarifying existing responsibilities of both paddlers and property owners when it comes to rivers and streams in Nevada, Steindorf said.
Allowing public access to private lands without compensation is “troublesome,” Brisco said, adding many people have sought out shoreline property on the Nevada side of the lake because of the property rights.
The association opposes extending a public trust to Nevada and plans to meet with the bill’s sponsors to discuss possible amendments, Brisco said.
She said she expects the bill to face a difficult passage. She anticipates the legislation will be heard again prior to the Nevada Legislature’s April 12 deadline for first house committee passage. Bills that do not gain committee approval by that point do not move forward.