Decision on man-made reef near Incline looms |

Decision on man-made reef near Incline looms

INCLINE VILLAGE — A federal judge could rule within two weeks on whether an unauthorized reef should be removed.

The breakwater, which is strategically placed rocks used to break the impact of waves, is at the center of a legal battle between Incline Village resident Tom Gonzales and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The agency filed a motion last month to have the structure disassembled and the site restored. TRPA is also seeking a $250,000 fine from Gonzales in a related legal action.

TRPA claims the breakwater damages the shorezone and fish habitat. Attorneys for Gonzales from the law firm of Geno Menchetti argue that the structure helps fish by providing sheltered habitat.

The response also claims the $250,000 fine shows that TRPA’s has “dirty hands” because its primary motive is financial, not environmental.

Other claims include improper disclosures of confidential negotiations, and a five-month filing delay that undercuts TRPA’s charge of imminent environmental damage.

Among the experts assembled by Gonzales is Brant Allen, an associate of the Tahoe Research Group based at UC Davis, as well as a private consultant. Allen claims to have studied shorezone fishery at Lake Tahoe for 15 years.

Allen states in a court document that the breakwater will cause no harm to fish habitat.

In comments last week, TRPA chief counsel John Marshall said the response to TRPA’s motion doesn’t address the key issue, which is the removal of the breakwater.

“There is actual environmental damage,” Marshall said. “They counter by blowing a lot of smoke about dirty hands, disclosure and waiting five months to file.”

He added that the breakwater’s removal, and not the $250,000 fine, is the subject of the motion.

“They don’t show why they can continue to evade our procedure,” Marshall said.

TRPA served the motion when negotiations with Gonzales broke down last month. The original suit was filed, but not served, last July when a June deadline was missed for providing a dismantling plan.

Marshall said TRPA would provide a response to Gonzales’ opposition by the end of this week, and that the judge in the case could address TRPA’s motion as early as mid-November.

The L-shaped breakwater measures 40 feet by 80 feet, and is composed of boulders from the adjacent shoreline.

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