Officials near improvement decision |

Officials near improvement decision

Officials are one step closer to figuring out how to pay for $200,000 worth of environmental improvements at Lake Tahoe.

The final results of a random telephone survey to determine what money-raising techniques residents might support should be ready later this month. Early results, however, show Northern Nevada and Northern California residents are willing to pay more to save the increasingly murky Tahoe.

Three-fourths of the 600 people polled in the 15-county area were willing to pay $5 to $10 a year to support Tahoe’s Environment Improvement Program, said Pam Drum, spokeswoman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“It’s too early to reach any conclusions, but what we’ve discovered so far is, generally speaking, there’s good, strong support for making the necessary investments to preserve Lake Tahoe’s environment,” she said.

“That’s obviously very positive and very encouraging information,” Drum added. “When we start to break it down and ask people about individual funding sources, the support varies.”

The six possibilities in the survey were narrowed from a list of 20 during Phase 1 of the TRPA’s regional revenue study.

The survey results and second part of Phase 2, a legal-constraints analysis which would show what kind of action it will take to achieve the fund-raising possibilities, should be ready within weeks. They are supposed to give officials a better idea of how to raise money for Tahoe’s share of the $900 million EIP.

Only a draft of the third prong to the Phase 2 study, an economic model, will be ready at that time.

The EIP identifies capital investments that need to be made before the end of the decade to meet the agency’s thresholds for water quality, soil conservation, air quality, vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, recreation and scenery.

The EIP divides up the cost of implementation between federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector. While the local governments’ portion of the EIP amounts to $101 million, officials want the regional revenue study under way to identify $200 million in funding, which would not only pay for the local portion but provide for long-term maintenance of the EIP projects.

The list of potential ways to raise the money has been narrowed down to six possibilities: a 1-cent gas tax in 12 Northern California and three Northern Nevada counties, $1 vehicle registration fee in those counties, $2 basin-wide impact fee, .5 percent basin-wide sales tax, 2 percent entertainment tax and a 2 percent transient occupancy tax increase.

The economic model is expected to show what impacts the fees could have on Tahoe’s economy as well as any effects implementing EIP projects could have.

The cost of the Phase 2 study is $132,000, paid for by TRPA and nearly 20 other basin organizations.

What it means:

Phase 2 of TRPA’s regional revenue study has three facets:

– A random survey will obtain public input on six possible funding sources that will raise money for restoration at Tahoe.

– A legal-constraints analysis that will explain what it will take to implement the possible sources, such as changing laws.

– An economic model that should show what impacts the fees could have on Tahoe’s economy as well as any effects that implementing environmental projects could have.

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