County gets to cash in: Money will go toward bike paths, restoration
El Dorado County will receive $2.4 million from Tahoe’s planning agency to help it complete environmental improvement projects like bike paths, roadside restoration and stream rehabilitation.
The money will come from mitigation fees charged to all developers. The fees have been a point of recent debate because some wonder if current mitigation strategies will be sufficient to address the increased pollution and traffic arising from development at Lake Tahoe.
The general idea is to direct money received from each jurisdiction back into restoration in that area, said Bob Slater, deputy director of engineering at the county’s Department of Transportation.
The Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency voted to release the funds at its meeting last week. Several hundred thousand dollars were also approved to go to Washoe and Placer counties for similar projects.
“It’s extremely important for the community to know where mitigation funds are being spent and to see that these dollars are going directly back into Lake Tahoe to help preserve and restore the environment,” said TRPA spokeswoman Angela Moniot.
Developers in Tahoe are charged various mitigation fees. Most projects require air and water quality fees. And if a new building looks like it will impact traffic in the area, the developer must pay toward a public transportation mitigation fund.
TRPA board member Steven Merrill has consistently questioned whether these funds are sufficient to address the increased traffic created by development.
“My concern is that there could be 20 projects like this and there is no process at this level or the county level that requires analysis of the cumulative impacts of all the projects in the area” Merrill said at last week’s board meeting. He was speaking about a new commercial project in Incline Village that was not assessed a transportation mitigation fee.
The League to Save Lake Tahoe believes Merrill is right on the mark.
“Environmental mitigations are important, but the million dollar question is whether mitigation measures in fact offset the environmental impacts of new development, or the activities that come with them,” said League program director John Friedrich.
He said it will be an important issue in the context of new proposed shorezone rules coming out this month, the Heavenly Mountain Resort master plan or changes coming from Pathway 2007 regional planning process.
Of the $2.4 million slated for El Dorado County, $1.6 million will go toward completion of a paved bike path between Meyers and Sawmill Pond.
Phase 1 of the project will connect Meyers with the Lake Tahoe Golf Course this summer. A second phase will connect the golf course to Sawmill Pond in summer 2007, Slater said. A third phase will eventually connect the bike path to the “Y.”
The California Tahoe Conservancy and federal government are also providing funding.
The project is part of a bicycle plan adopted by TRPA’s board in January 2004. The Lake Tahoe Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan was many years in the making and includes projects throughout the lake.
“The objective is to create a contiguous bicycle network around the lake,” Slater said.
Another $424,000 will go toward erosion control projects along county roads. And $310,000 will be used to restore stream and meadow areas.
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