Local dollar support needed for environment | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Local dollar support needed for environment

Sally J. Taylor

With 10 years before Lake Tahoe’s clarity could be permanently compromised, officials from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency are pounding the pavement in the search for dollars to fund more than $900 million in environmental projects.

“There is an urgency,” said TRPA spokeswoman Pam Drum.

To be sure no funding rock is left unturned, the TRPA plans to update a 1974 study that examined various revenue options. The Alternative Revenue Sources Study update will cost about $100,000. The California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency has agreed to fund $80,000 but only if the remaining $20,000 is funded from local sources.

“We are trying to determine whether there are alternative sources of revenue which can be generated,” Drum said.

Identified projects to reverse Tahoe’s declining clarity will cost an estimated $908.8 million over that 10-year period, not including operations and maintenance, Drum told the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

Roughly one-third of the funds are expected to come from the federal government, one-third from California and Nevada, and one-third from local resources.

The specific cost breakdown calls for $296.8 million in federal dollars; $274.6 million from California; $82 million from Nevada; $100.9 million from basin governments; and $152.5 million in local private dollars.

“The ratios of responsibility are based on land ownership (in the basin) and (polluting) land-use patterns,” Drum said.

During the chamber meeting, Drum pointed out that local dollars included such things as redevelopment-generated environmental improvements and mitigation fees and drainage control projects on individual properties.

Many sources of revenue exist but they depend on other sources.

Everyone says “we’re there if you’re there,” Drum said.

“The gap now is here at the local level. (A lack of local funds) will affect the region’s ability to implement the (Environmental Improvement Plan).”

Generating a consistent flow to local revenue for environmental improvements opens up additional flows. For instance, Drum said, grant programs may provide $750,000 for a project but only if local governments come up with the other $250,000 for a $1,000,000 project.

“They’re not going to, and shouldn’t, fund 100 percent. Why should they?”

Thus the need to find a consistent revenue source that can provide nearly $300 million over 10 years and an ongoing stream to maintain whatever environmental improvements are implemented.

The Alternative Revenue Sources Study update is designed to look at sources of revenue – be they sales taxes, property taxes, parking fees, entrance fees or other sources – that are acceptable to the community and do not cost more to administer than the funds they would generate.

A recently released parking study proved unpalatable to many in the community and was shelved in favor of looking at other options.

The funds for the study are required to be spent by June, although whether that means the study must be completed by June is uncertain.

“We don’t have time to waste,” Drum said. “We’re assuming the study needs to be done by June.”

As TRPA officials visit local organizations, they are picking up commitments toward the $20,000.

On Tuesday, the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce agreed to pitch in $1,000 for the study. The South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association previously committed $1,000 each.

Appeals are out to other government and business organizations all around the lake.

“We are very optimistic with what we’re hearing back from the community. The question of where the study will lead is a good question that we need to ask. We don’t know the answer to that yet,” Drum said.

But the goal of environmental improvements, “will benefit the entire region.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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