Feinstein, Guinn won’t attend Summit | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Feinstein, Guinn won’t attend Summit

Gregory Crofton

The theme of the Lake Tahoe Forum next week will be the “celebration of progress,” with a focus on the Environmental Improvement Program and an update regarding ongoing fire planning work around the lake.

The first forum occurred as part of the 1997 Presidential Summit, when President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore visited Tahoe and learned about the huge number of environmental restoration projects needed to protect the fading clarity of Lake Tahoe.

There has been a forum each year since then to refocus the attention of federal and state officials on what’s being done to protect the lake. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., will host this year’s event Thursday morning at the Ponderosa Ranch, off State Route 28 south of Incline Village.

Originally the event was organized at the ranch because a number of public agencies were working to buy the 548-acre property. The idea was to conserve the land and create a transportation center on its nine-acre parking lot. But the deal fell through when the land was sold to a resident of Incline Village. Despite the change, the event is still going to be at the Ponderosa.

“We see the forum as an opportunity to bring together all the participants in implementing the Environmental Improvement Program for Lake Tahoe,” said Rochelle Nason, who helped organize the Presidential Summit and is the executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “My understanding is that fire planning will be important theme of the forum just as it is an important part of the EIP. Scientific information is (also) a big part of the EIP and we expect significant discussion of the latest scientific developments.”

At the summit last year, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., announced legislation that became law in November and ensured that the federal government will provide $300 million to fund the Environmental Improvement Program.

The program was established in 1997 and calls for more than 700 restoration projects at a cost of $908 million. But if inflation and other cost increases are factored in, ultimately the price tag for the work will be about double that amount, said John Singlaub, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which coordinates EIP projects.

Officials confirmed to attend the invite-only event, on Thursday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., include: Ensign, California Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who attended summer camp at Tahoe when she was a girl and regularly attends the summit, will not be at the event this year because of “business conflicts,” according to her press officer Howard Gantman.

Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn also has a conflict and will not attend the summit, according to his press office. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger does not announce his schedule more than a day in advance so it is unknown if he plans to attend the summit.

In March, Leslie and Feinstein organized the Lake Tahoe Wildfire Prevention Forum at Lake Tahoe Community College. They called on fire officials in the basin to have fire plans prepared by early August.

Fire officials on the Nevada side of the Lake Tahoe Basin are on track to meet the Aug. 5 deadline, but the California side of the basin is about a month behind schedule in its fire planning. The idea is to get the plans done so Feinstein can take them to Washington, D.C., in an effort to secure federal funds from the Healthy Forest Restoration Act to finance the tree-thinning projects at Tahoe.

“We anticipated Sen. Feinstein being in attendance,” said Jennifer Arrowsmith, administrator of the Tahoe Basin Fire Safe Council. “Now that she will not be there, there is not as pressing of a deadline. By moving (the deadline) to the end of August, we’ll still have time to present the plans to Sen. Feinstein and prepare for grant applications.”

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com


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