GUEST COLUMN: Voicing support for Boulder Bay |

GUEST COLUMN: Voicing support for Boulder Bay

Steve Frisch
Special to the Tribune

LAKE TAHOE – I am writing today to strongly support the approval of the Boulder Bay project as currently being considered by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

The Sierra Business Council believes that we can achieve prosperity, environmental quality and strong communities at the same time. Debate that pits our economy against the environment is a false choice that limits our possibilities.

One lesson of the modern age is that the future may not look anything like the past. This lesson is particularly relevant at Lake Tahoe, where mistakes of the last 150 years led to declining lake quality, boom and bust economies, and destructive land use practices.

During the last century we sprawled across the landscape, wasted resources and disconnected people from their communities. In response we adopted new planning policies, embodied by legislation like California’s Senate Bill 375, calling for linking protection of natural resources to new development. The Boulder Bay project eliminates antiquated inefficient units and replaces them with units using one quarter the energy; reduces vehicle miles traveled by 10 percent; and reduces the footprint of development at the former Tahoe Biltmore site by 71,000 square feet. More important it takes a blighted eyesore that contributes to the destruction of the lake by allowing fine sediments to reach the water and through redevelopment treats 100 percent of the runoff.

Boulder Bay represents the best of environmental redevelopment practices, and by reusing a previously abused site – doubling the benefit – we remove the negative while building the positive.

The private developer pays all of the cost of this remediation and the public receives a significant portion of the benefit through improved lake quality.

Here is how the future will not look like the past. Lake Tahoe has received about $1 billion per decade for two decades for environmental improvement. This investment came almost exclusively from the public sector, from taxpayers, from you and me. But California, Nevada and the nation are in their worst fiscal shape since the Depression. The US has a $14.3 trillion national debt, is running a $2.8 trillion annual deficit, and we have lost $18 trillion in market value since 2007. If we don’t adapt and embrace a new way of doing business, where does this $1 billion investment in the restoration of Lake Tahoe come from in the next decade? How long can we expect the nation to pay for the restoration of the lake?

The public sector is only 20 percent of the national economy – 20 percent of the economy is bearing the cost of fixing Lake Tahoe – it’s time for us to get smart and leverage the 80 percent of the economy that comprises the private sector to contribute through environmental redevelopment. When this happens we will be able to focus a broader range of resources on reaching our objective to “Keep Tahoe Blue.”

The recently completed Tahoe Prosperity Plan envisions the new strategies we need to adapt. The plan includes strategies to encourage new businesses that adopt a mission to save the lake, improve the lives of the people who live here, and make money at the same time. Boulder Bay encompasses every element of that plan; green innovation, tourism that sustains our sense of place, and improving the health of visitors and residents.

Isn’t this what the environmental movement has been striving for all along?

We can have economic prosperity and environmental quality at the same time. But to get there the environmental community has to step up with real solutions; instead of opposing we need the environmental community engaged in proposing solutions.

We all want to keep Tahoe blue. Without Tahoe’s environmental champions – the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Sierra Cub, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and California Tahoe Conservancy – the jewel would have been lost decades ago.

Now the question is how do we Keep Tahoe Blue in the 21st century? I think the answer is clear. We do it by adopting a new model for our economy. We leverage the private sector to achieve multiple objectives, enabling environmental restoration, prosperity, and building community at the same time. Forward-looking business leaders are ready to step up to contribute.

That’s why Sierra Business Council is proud to support the Boulder Bay project.

– Steve Frisch is the president and CEO of the Sierra Business Council, a 750-member business organization dedicated to a sustainable future for the Sierra Nevada.

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