Commission upholds Washoe Meadows reclassification |

Commission upholds Washoe Meadows reclassification

Dylan Silver
Dylan Silver / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – California State Parks is gearing up for a legal battle with the South Shore’s Washoe Meadows Community over the reclassification of Washoe Meadows State Park into a “state recreation area.”

The classification change is a critical component of a proposal to move up to nine holes of Lake Tahoe Golf Course onto undeveloped land as part of a project to restore that section of the Upper Truckee River.

At a Jan. 27 meeting in the Bay Area city of Brentwood, the commission reaffirmed their October decision to change the designation of Washoe Meadows, an indication that the commission is reviewing its procedure to see that it aligns with state law.

“The way I understand it is, in light of the lawsuit, they wanted to make sure they had a process in place that could stand the test of a lawsuit,” said Roy Stearns, spokesman for California State Parks.

The Washoe Meadows Community filed a lawsuit against California State Parks in Alameda Superior Court in November, alleging that the proposed project violates the legislative act and legal settlement that created Washoe Meadows State Park in the first place. The community group is also alleging that the commission has violated the California Environmental Quality Act in numerous ways, including not following proper procedure when making their decision to reclassify.

California State Parks has denied any violations and insists the proposal to restore the Upper Truckee River while keeping the full-length, 18-hole golf course is the best one for the economy and the environment. Opponents contend that the State Parks Commission made their decision based on faulty information and that other restoration options are available.

Both sides agree that restoring the section of the Upper Truckee River running though Lake Tahoe Golf Course is necessary to protect the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

Though a delay is imminent, the lawsuit is not intended to stop the project altogether, said Washoe Meadows member Lynne Paulson. For the time being, neither Paulson or Stearns could say how long the lawsuit might last or when any project could possibly get underway.

“We don’t want to stop the project,” Paulson said. “We want the project to shift into an alternative that’s better.”

The item on the commission’s Jan. 27 agenda was seen by members of the Washoe Meadows Community as an opportunity to persuade State Parks officials that the project was not the best option, Paulson said.

“It said it was a ‘reconsideration’ of the decision,” Paulson said. “But there was no apparent reconsideration.”

No specific information concerning the decision to reclassify Washoe Meadows was reconsidered, Stearns said.

“Essentially nothing changed in the data,” he said.

It was necessary to reapprove the project because it was originally approved with “draft” findings, part of the reason for the community group’s lawsuit, Stearns said in a statement.

“To remove all doubt that the procedure was appropriate, State Parks decided to go back and reconsider with the second pathway,” he said.

The location of the meeting also caused a stir among opponents of the project, Paulson said. The meeting was held in Brentwood because the main item on the agenda concerned the general plan of a nearby park, Stearns said.

The first court date for the suit is set for March 27. Before the project can move forward it still must gain approval from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The TRPA has not yet added the item to any meeting agendas.

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