Governments at Lake Tahoe unhappy with Lahontan plan
County and city governments on the California side of the Lake Tahoe Basin are decrying a new proposal by state regulators to protect water quality.
Inside the boundaries of El Dorado County, Placer County and the city of South Lake Tahoe, stormwater runoff hits the lake and groundwater from residential, commercial and construction areas. And those jurisdictions are responsible under federal law for making sure that runoff isn’t full of pollutants, sediment or anything else that can damage the quality of water in the basin.
The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board regulates those discharges with a municipal stormwater permit. However, the old permit has expired, and a new one is being developed.
The more strict permit was up for adoption by Lahontan’s board at a meeting last week, but, at the request of the city and counties, the board members postponed their decision.
“Full compliance with the permit is going to be difficult, if not impossible,” said Robert Costa, public works manager for Placer County.
The permit requires costly environmental restoration projects for which the city and counties believe there is no money available.
“There’s no funding,” said Bruce Lee of El Dorado County’s transportation department. “We have to figure out a way to pay for it.”
William Newsom, Lahontan board member, said that wasn’t the state agency’s concern.
“It’s Placer County’s problem as well as El Dorado County’s problem to figure out how they’re going to get the money to do it,” he said. “I haven’t got anything against a continuance, but in May, or maybe at the end of 90 days, I want to hear how they plan on complying – not if they feel like complying.”
City and county officials said they have not had time to address their decision-making boards about the permit, and the continuance was granted to give them time for that.
Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and League to Save Lake Tahoe said they thought the permit could be more stringent.
“Tahoe is an exceptional place. It’s outstanding in every respect,” said Dave Roberts, assistant executive director of the League. “It also is extremely challenged right now. It is extremely vulnerable to stormwater runoff, probably more so than any other place in California.”
The city and counties are operating under the expired permit until the new one is adopted.
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