Cave Rock site expanded |

Cave Rock site expanded

Patrick McCartney

A proposed historic site at Cave Rock could extend from the hillside above the landmark to below the current level of Lake Tahoe, potentially including the nearby boat ramp.

That’s the preliminary finding of a survey of the Cave Rock site, which the U.S. Forest Service may nominate as a traditional cultural site under the auspices of the National Historic Preservation Act. The ancient lava plug is considered the most sacred location in the Tahoe Basin by the indigenous Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.

But the craggy rock is also coveted by rock-climbers, who find its steep face and overhang to be one of the best climbing sites in the area.

As part of its process to develop a long-term management plan for Cave Rock, the Forest Service hosted a second meeting Tuesday for Washoe members, rock-climbers and the other interested individuals to discuss their feelings about Cave Rock and their hopes for its future. Participants were asked to view the concerns for the rock from the perspective of others as a way to understand the conflicting attitudes.

At the same time the Forest Service is sponsoring a dialogue between the Washoe and rock-climbing communities, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is conducting the second phase of a study on Cave Rock. The $42,000 study, paid by federal transportation funds, continues the analysis begun in 1993 by the Nevada Department of Transportation when the adjacent boat ramp was extended.

Last week, the TRPA invited representatives of the interested parties to meet with its consultants, LSA & Associates of Rocklin, to review the issues relevant to a long-term plan for Cave Rock.

Richard Wiggins, a TRPA planner overseeing the process, said the distance between the interest groups has closed in recent months.

“I think we’re light years ahead of where we were two months ago in terms of the two sides understanding each other,” said Wiggins, who attended the Forest Service talks on Tuesday. He added that the TRPA study is designed to dovetail with the Forest Service planning effort.

“We’re at a parallel process right now, and at some point we’ll have to merge them,” Wiggins said.

So far, the TRPA has determined that there are 12 parcels within the likely boundaries of the historic site. Of those, four are owned by the Forest Service, and the rest by Nevada State Parks and private landowners.

John Maher, a Forest Service archeologist, said the Historic Preservation Act defines most alterations of a historic site as adverse effects that should be avoided or prohibited. But an important provision in the law is whether or not an alteration occurred before the passage of the preservation act in 1966.

For that reason, the highway tunnels blasted through Cave Rock in 1930 and 1956 may not be covered by the act, but the extension of the boat ramp in 1993 could be considered an adverse effect. Yet, the law could still allow some activities regarded as detrimental, Maher said.

“Just because we’ve identified an adverse effect doesn’t mean we can’t allow the adverse effect,” Maher said. “Perhaps we can allow it if it is partially mitigated.”

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