Officials hope for smooth ride in parking lot effort
If there are challenges to the environmental assessment of plans to build or expand four parking lots on Lake Tahoe’s northeast shore, that could lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money and create a major setback for the project, transportation officials said Friday.
“We don’t want this document to be challenged,” Paul Pettersen, a senior environmental scientist for the consulting firm working on the project, told the board of the Tahoe Transportation District Friday. “We have $400,000 waiting for this project, and we don’t want that money to go away.”
Pettersen’s company, Harding and Lawson Associates, recently completed the initial scoping process for the project for the Nevada Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service. A draft environmental assessment could be completed by the end of the month.
The lots are to be built – no sooner than 2000 – to replace about 150 road-side parking spaces that are expected to be eliminated when water quality projects are implemented on State Route 28. Lake Tahoe visitors and residents who hike or sunbathe on the hidden beaches in the area currently use shoulder parking along a 12-mile stretch of the highway south of Incline Village. But the parked cars cause erosion problems and contribute to the declining clarity of Lake Tahoe. Work planned for that section of road includes installing curbs, gutters and drop-inlets as well as erosion-control work on the slopes around the highway.
The erosion-control work is expected to cost $4.6 million, and that project is separate from the parking lots. Federal funds have become available that likely would pay for two of the four lots, and Pettersen said part of what officials are doing now will identify the first ones to be built.
However, if the environmental documentation process is not completed by the end of the year, those funds – $400,000 – will be lost. If individuals concerned about losing parking in that area challenge the assessment, that could delay plans beyond 1999.
“If we lose the scenic byways money, I would be surprised if we ever get any more. There is a lot of competition for national scenic byways money,” said Kay Bennett, the Carson City representative on the transportation board. “Carson City would really be disappointed to see us lose that.”
Steve Teshara, at-large member of the board, said he wanted future TTD meetings to serve as a forum for discussions on the project.
“I think we’re all trying to help make sure this money isn’t going to go away,” he said.
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