Nevada attempts strong-arm strategy against TRPA | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Nevada attempts strong-arm strategy against TRPA

Greg Crofton

STATELINE – Nevada lawmakers have threatened to withhold state funding from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency unless it adheres to five conditions.

The lawmakers met in Carson City last week and agreed to recommendations that would restrict state funding for the agency if it doesn’t get certain work, some of it related to forest fuels management, done by February.

TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub delivered the message to his Governing Board when it met Wednesday at Stateline.

The group of lawmakers, called the Legislative Committee for the Review and Oversight of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, voted 4-2 in support of the recommendations that could create the funding restriction.

The committee, chaired by Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, does not have the power to limit state funding, but its recommendations will be forwarded to state budget committees scheduled to meet in February. TRPA board members expressed dismay about the committee’s course of action.

“It is not within the spirit of the (TRPA) compact,” said Jerome Waldie, a Governing Board member who represents California. “We are supposed to be an independent agency not subject to political desires. I think it is a very troubling recommendation.”

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As board members hashed out whether to issue a formal response to the recommendations, Governing Board member Dean Heller, also Nevada’s secretary of state, promised colleagues he would do some legwork by talking to members of the committee. He also reminded the board that it is an election year in Nevada.

“Usually more reasonable heads prevail once we get into the Legislature,” Heller said. “(But) we can go straight to the source and have a discussion. In my dealings with Lynn Hettrick he is very straight forward.”

The committee listed five things it wants to see accomplished:

— The necessary coordination of a fuels management action plan for the Lake Tahoe Basin.

— A letter from Singlaub to the Governing Board requesting that public safety principles be incorporated in the 2007 Regional Plan.

— Adoption of a policy to limit communication between Governing Board members and project applicants to within the confines of public board meetings.

— Involve local government and the private sector in the collaborative process being organized to work on the 2007 Regional Plan.

— Establish qualifications for a regional transit staff position for the Tahoe Transportation District.

Singlaub said all the things that the committee wants to see done are reasonable and the TRPA is already working or willing to work on them. But, he indicated, the work should not get tied to the agency’s budget.

“I expressed concern about the precedent setting nature of (the recommendation),” Singlaub said. “But they approved it anyway.”

The annual budget of the TRPA fluctuates from year to year, but it usually comes in around $9 million. Of that amount, Nevada provides $1.4 million a year and California provides $4.2 million a year, according to TRPA Budget Director Sondra Schmidt. The rest of the funding comes from grants and fees collected by the agency.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com