Environmental groups "appalled" by TRPA bill approval
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A bill that would allow Nevada to pull out of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency if the organization does not meet certain benchmarks by October 2014 is one legislative step closer to reality.
The Nevada Senate voted 19 to 2 Friday afternoon to approve Senate Bill 271, which now moves to the Assembly for consideration.
The bill calls for the TRPA to amend the agency’s regional plan to consider changing economic conditions in the Lake Tahoe Basin, eliminate super majority votes requiring four TRPA Governing Board members from each state to vote yes for certain approvals and changing the TRPA’s compact to require anyone issuing a legal challenge to the regional plan to prove how the plan does not comply with the compact.
The bill would withdraw the state from the TRPA if the reforms are not enacted by a Oct. 1, 2014 deadline. The legislation gives the Nevada governor the option of extending the deadline by three years.
Nevada Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, voiced opposition to the bill on the Senate floor Friday, saying SB 271 will cause environmental damage to the lake and strip the region of federal funding.
She criticized the bill as “too extreme” and said it places the desires of builders ahead of the health of Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe conservation groups called the bill a “recipe for economic as well as environmental disaster” in a statement released Friday evening.
“We are appalled by today’s action by the Nevada Senate,” said Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, in the statement. “This bill is a cynical ploy by real estate agents and developers upset that the courts are requiring the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to have a plan in place that achieves and maintains environmental objectives before they can build more piers, hotels, condos, subdivisions and timeshares not allowed under existing plans.”
The bill also deprives each state of its sovereignty by changing the voting procedures of the TRPA, according to the statement.
“By requiring a simple majority of votes, rather than a majority in each state, California could begin approving development projects in Nevada with just one Nevada vote, and vice versa,” according to the statement.
Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, a sponsor of the SB 271, defended the bill on the Senate floor Friday. He said the legislation will not decrease environmental protections at the lake, but will give developers more certainty in knowing what they can and can’t do in the area.
“What we’re hoping to accomplish is to see that we can get a regional plan up there,” Lee said. “This is the compromise the state of Nevada is willing to discuss with California.”
TRPA spokesman Julie Regan also said the agency is hopeful the bill will promote discussion about how the lake should be regulated.
“TRPA remains committed to working with both states to protect Lake Tahoe and to restore the ecosystem in the face of unprecedented economic and environmental threats,” Regan said in a statement. “We’re hopeful the Nevada bill will bring Tahoe to the forefront with both legislatures resulting in a productive dialogue between the two states about the future of this special place.”