$500k fine still remains in limbo; City OK’d for airport tree cut | TahoeDailyTribune.com

$500k fine still remains in limbo; City OK’d for airport tree cut

Adam Jensen

As early as August, the City of South Lake Tahoe could trim, top or cut 408 trees at the airport, even as a $500,000 fine from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency remains unsettled.

The project is necessary to ensure public safety, said Rick Angelocci, assistant city manager for South Lake Tahoe.

State and federal agencies have warned the city about trees encroaching into “imaginary surfaces” required to be clear of obstructions for the safe operation of the airport.

“There are a number of trees which have grown up over the last 10 or so years into that imaginary surface and they have penetrated it,” Angelocci said on Tuesday. “We are on notice from the Federal Aviation Administration and the California Division of Aeronautics to have those trees removed.”

South Lake Tahoe is currently awaiting approval from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to begin the project.

The California Tahoe Conservancy issued a right of entry permit on June 20 and the TRPA approved the proposal in January.

“Things are moving along,” said Angelocci on Tuesday. “All the agencies are being very cooperative with us and walking us through the proper channels to get our permits. We’re taking every step possible to make sure there is virtually no impact from the removal of the trees.”

Although Angelocci was unsure when the project would begin, he hoped it could get started by mid-August, noting local forester schedules are rapidly filling up in the wake of the Angora fire.

In January, the TRPA offered a $500,000 settlement to the city in response to the improperly permitted cutting of 387 trees at the airport in May 2006.

Although vocal about the damage caused by the 2006 tree cut, the League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Area Sierra Club have yet to post an objection to the new proposal.

While the city has sought to separate the May 2006 tree cut from the proposed cut in the minds of the public, some residents still view the city’s activity at the airport with suspicion.

“Based on their past history, I would certainly look at their motives with a jaundiced eye,” said retired forester Jim Hildinger, on Tuesday.

Discussions between the TRPA and the city regarding the resolution of the settlement are on-going, according To Catherine DiCamillo, legal counsel for the city of South Lake Tahoe.

She was unable to say when the negotiations will conclude.

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