El Dorado, Douglas and South Lake Tahoe consider bear policy changes
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — El Dorado County and City of South Lake Tahoe officials said this week that both governing bodies could soon revise their trash management ordinances in an effort to help with human and bear conflicts in the area.
“We’re working on revisions as we speak,” El Dorado County supervisor Sue Novasel said, referring to ongoing assessments of current policy and the future recommendations of the South Lake Tahoe Basin Waste Management Joint Powers Authority — a collaborative effort between El Dorado County, City of South Lake Tahoe and Douglas County, Nevada.
“We were hoping that we could come together with a regulation that would work for all of us,” Novasel said, commenting on each body having its own ordinance and policies.
Among changes, plans could potentially include a loan program to assist residents with the cost of adding bear-proof trash enclosures to their properties.
“I think it’s well recognized that there is an issue in the basin,” said Greg Stanton, director of El Dorado County’s environmental health division. “The county currently has a fairly effective ordinance, but I think it can be improved.”
Regarding further encouraging of bear proofing, Novasel said, “When we have bear-proof enclosures, we don’t have a bear problem. We need to address that.”
Currently, El Dorado County requires all new residential construction to include approved garbage enclosures. Stanton explained that policy revisions could include more stringent requirements for home renovation projects. Residents within South Lake Tahoe city limits are not subject to the current county policy.
Additional changes could include stiffer penalties for repeat trash violation offenders and more of an effort to promote awareness about the issue, especially with regard to vacation rentals.
“Vacation rentals are probably one of the bigger problems with the city,” South Lake Tahoe Public Works director Ray Jarvis said. Referring to residents he added, “For the most part I think this community is pretty darn good.”
Both city and county policies could include more of a campaign to promote awareness among visitors and residents. Having vacation rentals provide more information for their guests was among suggestions being considered.
“The more that we provide the public education, the faster the solution will come,” Stanton said.
As part of the city’s efforts, Jarvis said his department is currently mapping problem areas with the help of observations from the nonprofit Clean Tahoe Program — an organization dedicated to litter management — and South Tahoe Refuse.
Jarvis said a revised ordinance could be presented to city council some time this winter. Stanton and Novasel suggested a similar timeline for county policy.
All three also addressed enforcement concerns and resources needed to follow through on city and county codes.
“It’s difficult,” Jarvis said. “It really requires our code enforcement officers to be involved.”
He commended the efforts of Clean Tahoe and South Tahoe Refuse, but also suggested that code enforcement officers have a host of other obligations in addition to the trash policy.
“When you have rules you need to enforce them,” Novasel said. “If we can address enforcement more aggressively, that would help.”
Stanton, Novasel and Jarvis added that South Tahoe Refuse changing pickup hours to later in the morning has been beneficial. Encouraging residents to leave trash indoors until prior to pickup has also helped substantially with bear incidents.