$ 300 million question | TahoeDailyTribune.com

$ 300 million question

A resolution expected to bring $300 million to Lake Tahoe over the next 10 years for environmental improvements has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein Wednesday introduced SR1192, commonly referred to as the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act.

Feinstein, D-Calif., announced her plans to introduce the resolution at a San Francisco news conference last week. The region’s other senators – Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Richard Bryan, D-Nev., and Harry Reid, D-Nev. – and numerous Tahoe officials attended in support of the resolution.

“We have a tremendous coalition of environmentalists, local businesses and local elected officials saying the time to act is now,” said Jim Hock, spokesman for Feinstein. “This legislation is a cry for help for Lake Tahoe.”

The resolution proposes to change the U.S. Forest Service’s designation from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit to the Lake Tahoe National Scenic Forest and Recreation Area. The status would be unique, and, besides creating a new name, it would:

nRequire the Forest Service to develop an environmental restoration priority list focusing on acquisition of environmentally sensitive land, erosion control, fire-risk reduction and traffic management.

nAuthorize $20 million a year for the federal agency to implement projects on that list.

nAuthorize another $10 million annually for local governments to implement erosion-control projects.

nRequire the other agencies to submit an annual priority list of projects to the Forest Service.

The resolution explicitly states it gives the Forest Service no regulatory authority over private and non-federal land.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has estimated that restoring the lake will cost $900 million over 10 years. Roughly one-third of that amount is supposed to come from the federal government.

At the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, President Clinton signed an executive order committing federal action in the region. Clinton agreed, during a two-year period, to double federal spending on preservation and restoration of Lake Tahoe, committing $50 million.

Jim Baetge, executive director of TRPA, said he sees Feinstein’s resolution as the next phase of the federal government’s continued commitment.

“This is right down the line from the 1997 forum as far as the federal commitment to Lake Tahoe,” he said. “This is great news for the Tahoe Basin.”

There is no indication how long it might take before the bill could be passed by both houses of Congress. Whatever changes are made, Lake Tahoe officials will follow its progress closely and either support or fight against the alterations, said Steve Teshara, member of the Lake Tahoe Transportation and Water Quality Coalition.

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