Green/Scene- Nevada key to TRPA reform | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Green/Scene- Nevada key to TRPA reform

Michael S. Green, Tahoe Daily Tribune

As a native and a lifelong resident of California, my admiration for Nevada grows stronger each day.

It’s a can-do, smoke-’em-if-you-got-’em kind of state that doesn’t seem fond of government regulation.

That’s quite a paradox at Lake Tahoe, where the awesome power of government is embodied in the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about scenic thresholds, mainly because TRPA is proposing new regulations to protect scenic quality around the lakeshore.

The case for additional regulation was made as part of an evaluation process of environmental standards conducted every five years. The complete report addresses air and water quality, fish and wildlife, and other yardsticks. It can be viewed at http://www.trpa.org/News/2001_Thresholds.html.

The threshold evaluation runs more than 800 pages and what it lacks in plot it makes up for in substance. All Tahoe residents would benefit from reading the fine print, especially where new regulations are proposed.

For example, the wildlife folks want new developments to install bear-proof trash containers. The water quality folks want mandatory environmental improvements (best management practices, or BMPs) whenever a piece of property is sold.

Among the most troubling proposals is one that would make development contingent on unrelated environmental projects. Namely, “allocations of new development and expansions of existing development should continue but be more closely linked to key recommendations, such as accelerated (Environmental Improvement Program) implementation, BMP program upgrades, transit improvements, and new scenic standards.”

That’s a mighty big stick, and the TRPA should be told to stick it. That’s where Nevada comes in.

You see, while TRPA is busy evaluating progress on the environmental front, nobody seems keen on evaluating TRPA itself. Sure, you hear folks bitch and moan but nothing changes. The juggernaut rolls on.

That prospect isn’t very troubling to many Californians, who claim to chafe under government regulation but have become quite accustomed to the yoke. Don’t look to the land of carpool lanes, gated subdivisions and smoke-free bars for sympathy.

Instead, look to Nevada. The state no doubt wanted to be a good neighbor when it signed off on the 1980 compact that created the current incarnation of TRPA. Good intentions aside, however, residents can’t be happy with the agency’s focus on environmental issues to the exclusion of other considerations. Those seeking to market Tahoe as a world-class destination must cringe at the lip service paid to a “sustainable economy.”

Nevada can restore balance to the equation by pulling out of the TRPA compact. Such a move would be derided as radical, impractical and politically suicidal. Environmentalists would say it would undo 20 years of progress and threaten federal funding.

So what’s your point? The mere threat of a pullout could lead to badly needed reform at TRPA, starting with the imposition of economic development as a threshold. If the politicians don’t have the gonads to do it, I’m pretty sure the state’s voters can get the job done through an initiative.

Look, Nevada, it’s bad enough you’re getting stuck with a nuclear waste site. Are you content to sit back and watch the lifeblood get squeezed out of your most precious natural resource? Are you ready for more standards, more quotas, more rules? Are you going to let the future of Tahoe be decided by political appointees?

As long as we’re putting the environment under a microscope, let’s kick the tires on the act of Congress that brought us the TRPA. It’s been more than 20 years and the tread is wearing thin, along with the patience of the people who live here.

— Michael S. Green is managing editor of the Tribune. His column appears Fridays.


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