Another cancel for Lahontan
Decision makers for the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board may not recognize one another at their next meeting. It’s been so long since they’ve seen each other.
The agency has been forced to cancel its May meeting – just like April, March, February and, you guessed it, January.
The board has been without a quorum since January when newly elected California Gov. Gray Davis withdrew the nominations of 134 people picked by his predecessor to serve in an array of key state jobs. Sweeps, such as the one by Davis, are considered common actions by incoming governors seeking to put their own stamp on the new administration.
Because of the lack of meetings, Lahontan staff has indicated that there is some backlog of work that needs to be addressed, but no significant problems have occurred.
“I can’t point to a pollution that is going unabated or unchecked because we haven’t had any board meetings,” said Bob Dodds, Lahontan’s assistant executive officer.
Lahontan staff has the ability to issue some permits without board approval and has been doing so. For permits that require board approval, however, there is a 120-day period in which they must either be approved or denied. If the permits are not acted on, the applicant has the ability to work without the permit.
Dodds said all projects currently in that situation are ones that pose little threat of causing damage, projects that Lahontan staff are not overly concerned about.
There also is a backlog of hearings on enforcement actions. Lahontan staff can issue fines to parties responsible for pollution sources – or responsible for unacceptable cleanup measures. Parties facing fines then have the ability to appeal before the board. Several of those cases are planned for the next board meeting, including a pending $292,000 fine against USA Petroleum for alleged delinquent cleanup efforts at South Lake Tahoe’s USA Gas Station.
The Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association was scheduled to appear before the board in January regarding pollution that allegedly came from its water treatment facility. It reportedly released more than 800 million gallons of aluminum-contaminated water into Lake Tahoe last summer. The presence of the toxic metal in the water reached levels where it may have harmed aquatic life.
Janis Brand, president of the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association’s board of trustees, said that the association and Lahontan staff have reached a tentative settlement of the problem.
“In truth, (the lack of meetings) has been an advantage for us,” Brand said. “It’s given us more time (to reach an agreement).”
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