Advocates for lake-level study having trouble being heard |

Advocates for lake-level study having trouble being heard

Andy Bourelle

The next steps for property rights advocates worried that Lake Tahoe’s high water level may be causing lakeshore erosion could be the courts or the state legislatures.

“We’re trying to bring attention to an issue we think has been ignored by those who control the lake’s level,” said attorney Gregg Lien, who represents several Tahoe property owners. “We may look at getting political support, possibly from Sen. (Dianne) Feinstein or Sen. (Richard) Bryan in Nevada. We may look at litigation as a possible tool.

“There are a number of different things we can do.”

To date, little scientific information is known about the level’s effect on erosion and Tahoe’s declining clarity. However, Lien’s clients and other groups have suspicions it could be significant.

A petition – signed by officials from The University of California, Davis, Tahoe Research Group; two property organizations, the Tahoe Sierra Preservation Council and Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association; and the League to Save Lake Tahoe – was presented to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt earlier this week regarding the level. It requested more research on the issue and “at a minimum … that consideration be given to an interim reduction in lake level until those studies are completed.”

Lien said he has heard no response to the request nor has any estimate of when he will.

A small dam in Tahoe City feeds the Truckee River, Lake Tahoe’s only outlet. The lake can store up to 744,600 acre-feet of water, enough to supply the cities of Reno and Sparks for a decade.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation – a part of the Department of Interior – last month announced it was taking over operation of the Lake Tahoe Dam, saying it was necessary to guard against legal challenges to the complicated Truckee River Operating Agreement that is expected to be completed next year.

TROA is supposed to address how Tahoe’s level affects clarity.

However, Lien said the already-released draft of the TROA document “just provides lip service to the issue.”

“I think it’s going to have to be someone everyone can trust,” he said.

While every resident in the Tahoe Basin has to pay mitigation or pay for improvements on their property because of erosion impacts, Lien said, it is unfair that those who use the water of the Truckee River get a “free ride.”

“I really do think shore erosion is the most under-recognized source of nutrients to Lake Tahoe,” Lien said.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency also has formed a committee to look into shoreline erosion from high water levels.

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