Lahontan cancels meeting, waiting for appointments |

Lahontan cancels meeting, waiting for appointments

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board has canceled its regularly scheduled March meeting, the third cancellation this year.

Lahontan, one of nine regional agencies comprising the California Water Quality Control Board, has not had a quorum since January when Gov. Gray Davis issued a blanket revocation of pending appointments made by former Gov. Pete Wilson. Two of Lahontan’s board members’ appointments were revoked, leaving the board without enough people.

Davis recently appointed one member to the board, but the action was still not enough.

“As I understand it, in order to have quorum on our nine-member board, we have to have at least five,” said Alan Miller, Lahontan associate water resources control engineer. “Until we get another board member, we can’t have a quorum and can’t hold a meeting.”

Shortly after being elected, Davis withdrew the nominations of 134 people picked by Wilson to serve in an array of key state jobs. The sweep by Davis – a common action of incoming governors seeking to put their own stamp on the new administration – targeted the appointments the Republican governor made during his final days in office. The appointments were awaiting confirmation by the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Lahontan already had four vacancies, and with the governor’s January action, there were only three sitting members.

Davis announced last week the appointment of William Newsom of Dutch Flat to the regional board. Newsom has served as an associate justice for the California Court of Appeal and is currently director of the Wildlife Conservancy and Mountain Lion Foundation. The appointment still requires Senate approval.

Chris Compana, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said he could not estimate how long it would take for the governor to make another appointment to the board.

Is the lack of board meetings causing problems for Lahontan?

“Yes and no,” Miller said. “Things are building up. When we do have a meeting, we’ll probably have a long agenda, a lot of business to conduct. (But) as I understand it, we are conducting business pretty normally.”

Lahontan’s jurisdiction stretches 570 miles from the Oregon border to the northern Mojave Desert, covering 33,000 square miles. The board is responsible for protecting water quality within its region.

Lahontan has the authority to issue an Administrative Civil Liability – or fine – to businesses or residents who have negligently contaminated ground or surface water or who have been delinquent in their cleanup efforts. The responsible parties have the opportunity to appeal the fines before the regional board. Two such cases concerning South Shore gas stations were scheduled for January, and the fines are still pending.

Also scheduled for the January meeting had been an appearance before the board by the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association. The association’s water treatment facility allegedly released more than 800 million gallons of aluminum-contaminated water into Lake Tahoe last summer, causing the presence of the toxic metal to reach levels where it may have harmed aquatic life.

The hearing concerned a Cease and Desist order by Lahontan, which will require the association to stop using the facility. However, Tahoe Keys officials have indicated the order is basically a formality; the association already has stopped using the facility. The association may later face a fine or other order for the alleged contamination.

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