Grading season begins |

Grading season begins

Emily Aughinbaugh

Let the building begin.

Tuesday marked the first day of the year more than 3 cubic yards of dirt could be moved legally in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Since 1986, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has not allowed excavating, filling, clearing of vegetation, or other soil disturbances between May 1 and Oct. 15.

The dates are based on historical climate data, according to TRPA Public Affairs Coordinator Pam Drum.

She said there is a noticeable historical trend of diminishing precipitation after the first of May and increasing at the end of October.

The grading prohibition also extends through the rest of the year during periods of precipitation or when a site is covered with snow or is in a saturated, muddy or unstable condition.

The ban was implemented to minimize soil erosion and prevent excessive nutrient transport to the lakes and streams that feeds algae growth and diminishes clarity.

Drum said May brings an increased workload for staff who perform pre-grade inspections for every proposed project.

She said the vast majority of project applications are handled at the staff level. The TRPA Governing Board reviews projects that require a special-use permit or environmental impact statement, or would result in a substantial harvest of trees or significant increase in traffic.

Some small commercial projects and all residential projects, excluding those in Douglas County, can be permitted through local planning departments. Douglas County residents must submit project applications to TRPA and Douglas County.

Drum said compliance inspectors are always out making sure builders play by the rules.

Although occasional work starts on April 30 or goes to Oct. 16, she said local contractors are usually compliant.

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