Forest Service to discuss Feinstein bill at commission meeting |

Forest Service to discuss Feinstein bill at commission meeting

Sheila Gardner, Tribune News Service

When you hear “Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit,” do you think “jewel of the Sierra,” or, “Uh-oh, bureaucracy at work?”

Juan Palma, supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, is hoping that recently proposed legislation to designate a unique status to public land at Lake Tahoe will give the area new respect.

Douglas County commissioners, however, fear the change in designation is just another layer of bureaucracy. So far, the county stands alone in its concern.

Palma is scheduled to address commissioners about the proposed legislation, which he says will not give the government additional control over land at the lake.

“This bill gives the U.S. Forest Service no more authority over the land than it has now. It will not in any fashion give the TRPA any more authority. In my personal opinion, I believe we have enough authority to manage the land and don’t need any more,” Palma said.

The federal legislation earmarks $20 million annually for 10 years for implementation of projects on an Environmental Restoration Priority List and $10 million annually for erosion control programs.

“There are three parts of this bill and No. 1 to me is the designation of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit as the Lake Tahoe National Scenic Forest and Recreation Area,” Palma said. “That’s a name that has been created after a lot of community involvement. It’s not something that has been crafted in a back room.

“The other thing is, the name doesn’t exist anywhere else. There is baggage with other existing names such as national forest or national recreation area all by itself or national scenic area all by itself,” Palma said.

Palma clarified that the funding that accompanies the new legislation is authorized rather than allocated.

“It simply gives you the authority to go through the procedure to get the money,” Palma said.

“The third part of the bill is really exciting,” he said. “There is $10 million that would be authorized for local political entities such as Douglas County to put together a plan for restoration projects they would like to do.”

Commissioners first expressed their concern about the proposed legislation at a June 3 meeting, the day before California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and Richard Bryan announced their plans to introduce the measure at a joint news conference in San Francisco.

So far, the Douglas County contingent has brought up the most concerns about whether the bill would add more restrictions to an area that some believe is already clogged with bureaucracy.

Palma insisted that the bill would not bring more regulations to Lake Tahoe.

County Commissioner Don Miner said he remained unconvinced that the legislation is necessary.

“If it’s just a name change, why do they need to do it? If it’s change for change sake, we’ve been to that dance,” Miner said.

“The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has been operating all these years. How have we been suffering by that deficiency? What impact has that deficit caused at the Lake by being the stepchild? If anyone has access to these answers, it should be Mr. Palma.”

Commissioner Steve Weissinger said he is concerned the legislation would affect property rights for Douglas County residents who live at the Lake.

“This bill is full of generalities and non-specifics,” Weissinger said. “If some information could come forward that will clarify things, I will welcome that. The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has been in operation for 26 years. What’s such a priority to change that? If I can get some clarification on some of those generalities, my tone might be different. Once a bill becomes law, though, it’s hard to change.”

Weissinger said he wasn’t sure how much clout Douglas County has in Washington, D.C.

“I hate to say it, but probably we have little impact. However, we can go on record that based on generalities, as the Board of County Commissioners, we did not support it,” Weissinger said.

What: Douglas County Commission meeting

When: Thursday, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Douglas County Administration Building, Stateline

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