Census plans county survey | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Census plans county survey

Susan Wood

No sooner did the long-awaited U.S. Census stats show a 24 percent increase in El Dorado County’s permanent population during the last decade, than the bureau is planning to measure all the county’s seasonal population come 2003.

The month-to-month surveys should have special significance to a destination resort like South Lake Tahoe, where a 9.4 percent growth could have been skewed by seasonal fluctuations.

“(The American Community Survey) will be a boon for people who want to know seasonal population, especially for areas like Lake Tahoe,” Census demographer Marc Perry said from the bureau’s population distribution branch.

The ambitious project will be cost-efficient but expensive, requiring congressional funds, Perry said.

“People have said for a long time that by the time we come out with the detailed information every 10 years, it’s already outdated,” Perry said.

The Census Bureau is already conducting the pilot project on 1,000 counties in the United States, including San Francisco and Tulare in California.

When this county goes on line, the new information would allow for an analyst to note winter to summer population gains or decreases on an altered version of the bureau’s long form. This version highlights migratory and commuting patterns.

The seasonal data may be a key to detecting how the county population is distributed and whether South Lake Tahoe’s current statistic of 23,609 residents rises or falls with the seasons.

Officials certainly believe its economic livelihood does.

And California’s demographer believes that the economic base will grow with the trends if El Dorado County’s 156,299 residents reported in the Census 2000 either stay or drift into the South Shore.

“Yeah, if you’ve had that kind of growth, you’re probably going to continue to grow,” state demographer Linda Gage said from her Sacramento office.

The trend is in line with California’s consistent growth and – on the other side of the border – Nevada’s leadership position as the fastest growing state.

“When you bring more people into an area, they’re also going to have children,” Gage said.

Then, there’s the pass-along visitation from the surrounding area.

The epicenter of the explosive growth in the county is situated in El Dorado Hills, a suburb of Sacramento, on U.S. Highway 50.

When Blue Shield opens its offices this year in the Hills as predicted, the insurance company should employ 1,400 people.

Opening high-occupancy lanes between Sunrise Boulevard in Sacramento and the El Dorado Hills may help, but it’s not the end-all solution, county Supervisor Dave Solaro said.

That’s why South Lake Tahoe redevelopment is so important, he said. It takes into account these people who are apt to frequent the South Shore.

“The real answer is to get them out of the cars,” Solaro said. He said his vision focuses on the centralized, pedestrian-friendly ski villages like the Grand Summit Resort planned at Stateline.

Hence, here’s the setback of living in such a popular destination resort town.

Transportation officials have predicted an increase of more than 120,000 additional cars circulating the Lake Tahoe Basin by 2025.

“We’re definitely looking for ways to better move cars through the basin, so they don’t sit,” said Richard Wiggins, transportation division chief for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

TRPA has contracted with a Sacramento firm to update its Regional Transportation Plan in two years. This plan, with an emphasis on environmental management, is separate from the federal-state 2000 plan.

Ideas have abounded in transit plans here.

Councilman Tom Davis wants to use Disneyland as a model for an ambitious monorail stationed at the Lake Tahoe Airport. It would whisk visitors through the South Shore on a scenic ride.

“It may be the most costly, but it’s probably the most efficient,” he said. “There would be a lot of engineering and political hurdles. But we’ve got to have vision.”

For the ground-level version of the near future, the South Shore Transportation Management Association is approaching the home stretch in the design of its Tahoe Coordinated Area Transit System, Executive Director Dick Powers reported.

Powers expects the network of high-tech buses and shuttles to be an important local component to move visitors through town.

“If we don’t protect the lake in the process (of growing), everybody who would come here (will be) gone,” he said.

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