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Marina expansion approved by TRPA

Tahoe Keys Marina owners gained final approval for their proposed expansion Wednesday, but not without a fight.

Attorneys for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and League to Save Lake Tahoe engaged in often-heated discussions during a TRPA Governing Board meeting that stretched for nearly three hours.

The marina’s master plan, required by TRPA, includes space for up to 150 new boats, 120 more parking spaces and nearly 6,000 feet of additional floor space. League officials attacked the adequacy of the marina’s master plan and environmental impact statement.



League officials have argued for the last year that a baseline level of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH, has to be established before the approval of the master plan. League attorney Stephan Volker accused the board of taking a “slippery slope approach.”

The marina started testing for PAH a couple of weeks ago, which was the start of monthly and holiday testing required by Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.



The tests will continue until January. At that time, a baseline level of PAH can be established in order to determine whether the toxin’s levels exceed the master plan’s threshold of 20 parts per trillion.

Not much is known about PAH, a byproduct of boat fuel combustion. However, preliminary studies show the byproduct can be toxic and possibly lethal to fish larvae and zooplankton at the base of Tahoe’s aquatic food chain.

Since there is little scientific data on the detriments of PAH, Volker said techniques outlined in the master plan to lessen the toxin’s impacts may be off-base.

“Surely this momentous decision requires you spend another year to review the data available to you,” Volker told the board. “There may be unstudied, unknown cumulative impacts of PAH. If you approve this and risk facing the broad, long-term effects later, you may have to explain your decision to the applicant, the public and possibly a judge.”

Despite Volker’s protests, the board approved the marina plan 8-5.

“We’re appalled by TRPA’s decision but not surprised,” said League Executive Director Rochelle Nason. “We’ll be conferring with our lawyer about the next step. TRPA has been heading downhill recently and seems deeply unconcerned about the environmental protection it’s supposed to uphold.”

Nason said the South Lake Tahoe City Council did a better job of reviewing the master plan than TRPA.

The City Council required marina owners to pay for 22 percent of upgrades to the Tahoe Keys Boulevard and U.S. Highway 50 intersection; additional funding and designs for the intersection must also be in place before the marina expansion can proceed.

The TRPA board adopted the city’s traffic mitigation standards before voting for approval. It voted down a motion from Jim Galloway, the board’s Washoe County representative, requiring boats housed at the marina to get mandatory annual tune-ups.

Although marina co-owner Richard Horton said he was pleased with the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting, he was unsure of the project’s economic feasibility given the increased traffic requirements.

“We appreciate the Governing Board’s action very much and will proceed along the path we’re on,” Horton said. “But before we do anything, we’ll have to analyze the cost of mitigation and see if we can afford it.”


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