Agency eyes mix of basin fees |

Agency eyes mix of basin fees

Patrick McCartney

The head of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency predicted Friday that a variety of fees and taxes will eventually be needed to pay for the local government share of a $900 million environmental improvement program in the Tahoe Basin.

Speaking at the third meeting of the Nevada Legislature’s oversight committee, held Friday in Incline Village, Executive Director Jim Baetge spelled out the agency’s efforts to identify funding for the basin’s five counties and numerous special districts.

Representatives of state agencies active in the basin also presented their plans to meet the state’s commitment to the Environmental Improvement Program.

In the next 10 years, Baetge said, local governments will have to come up with $101 million as matching funds for capital improvements in the basin, and also will have to find the revenue needed to pay for ongoing maintenance of the individual projects.

To generate as much as $30 million a year, local governments may need to rely on a blend of such fees as gasoline taxes, sales taxes, bed tax and parking fees, said Baetge, the improvement program’s prime mover.

“One revenue source probably is not going to address all the elements,” Baetge said. “The gas tax, for instance, could be used for some things, but not others. Alternatives, such as the gas tax, (bed tax), sales tax, utility tax and even a basin user fee, will clearly be discussed. Recreation fees and parking fees will also be an element.”

Baetge said a basin user fee would not mean installing checkpoint gates on roads leading into the basin. He suggested license plate fees as a possible alternative.

Baetge said the agency will select a consultant within 10 days to conduct a $100,000 study of possible revenue sources, updating a previous study done in 1974, and expects to begin public meetings soon after. Whatever revenue sources are selected, almost all funds would be funneled through state transportation departments, local government, the basin’s many special districts, as well as certain coalitions of private and public interests, such as the Tahoe Transportation District, Baetge said.

In Nevada, State Lands Division chief Pam Wilcox said lawmakers would have to find another $56.4 million to meet the $82 million commitment called for in the TRPA’s 10-year improvement plan. She said the rest of the money will have to come mainly from lawmakers or through voter approval of more bonds.

Agency representatives described their department responsibilities to Lake Tahoe in detail.

The long list of state projects was praised by both Steve Teshara of the business-oriented Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance and Rochelle Nason of the environmentalist League to Save Lake Tahoe.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, who serves on the legislative study panel, questioned whether the ”wish list” was too long. He also said costs might be cut by using convict labor for some of the projects – like lining ditches with rock to slow sediment from flowing into the lake.

Sen. Mark James, R-Las Vegas, urged the use of more bond issues to generate large sums for Tahoe projects. He noted that previous statewide campaigns for Tahoe bonds haven’t been very extensive but the bonds easily won approval.

The study committee, chaired by Assemblyman Brian Sandoval, R-Reno, will hold another meeting May 29. Sandoval said he’s also organizing a meeting with California legislators in the near future to help coordinate Tahoe projects that will benefit both states.

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