City might avoid tree-cut fine with environmental measures at airport (w/video)
Rather than imposing a fine for the unauthorized removal of 387 trees at the Lake Tahoe Airport in 2006, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency may require the city of South Lake Tahoe to install erosion-control measures and restore thousands of acres of land at the site.
In a draft settlement developed by the TRPA and city staff, the city would have to permanently remove a 13-by-1,300-foot section of pavement along the runway’s northeastern edge, built on sensitive land identified as a stream environment zone (SEZ).
Pervious concrete, which reduces runoff by allowing water to seep into the soil beneath, also would replace a 15,600-square-foot section of pavement next to where the runway will be removed, according to the proposed settlement.
The TRPA’s Governing Board is scheduled to discuss approval of the draft settlement during a meeting Wednesday at The Chateau in Incline Village.
Decreasing the width of the runway and installing the pervious concrete, a Best Management Practice (BMP), would produce environmental benefits on a particularly important piece of property in the Lake Tahoe Basin, according to the TRPA.
“Installation of this BMP represents an unprecedented opportunity to reduce the impact of runoff and, therefore, sedimentation into the Upper Truckee River,” according to a TRPA staff memo.
The Upper Truckee River is the largest source of fine sediment entering Lake Tahoe.
Fine sediment has been identified by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board’s total maximum daily load as the No. 1 cause of lake clarity loss.
In January 2006, the TRPA offered a $500,000 settlement to the city in response to the cutting of 387 trees larger than 6 inches in diameter at the airport without a valid TRPA permit.
Under TRPA regulations, a $1.9 million fine could have been issued for the unauthorized tree cut, but the agency lowered the amount of the penalty “because TRPA recognized that a penalty assessed against a government entity must in most instances be paid from public funds,” according to the memo.
The decreased width of the runway would not have a major effect on current airport operations, said Assistant City Manager Rick Angelocci, but the smaller runway could discourage commercial carriers from using large jets if scheduled flights are re-established at the airport.
Sarah Curtis of the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s Upper Truckee River Watershed Stewardship Group described the permanent retirement of land coverage in the proposed settlement as “a good thing” but pressed for the examination of revegetating the area where the trees were cut.
League officials also hope a suggestion that the city place pervious pavement along the entire length of the runway – contained in the memo but not in the draft settlement – would be included in a final agreement.