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Guest View: Agency making ‘positive changes’

John Singlaub

Upon taking the job as Executive Director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in January 2004, I made a commitment to the public and to our Governing Board to make positive changes at the agency. I’d like to share some of the changes we’ve made over the last two years and commit once again to improving how we do business at TRPA. We’ve made substantial progress, but a lot of work remains ahead.

— TRPA restructuring Is paying off

Over the past year, the agency has been operating under a new structure designed to enhance internal processes and improve our customer service. Some of the results have included:

– Streamlining the review process to reduce the backlog of current applications.

– Continuing to delegate certain permit processes to local jurisdictions.

– Instituting an over-the-counter permit program where appointments are scheduled and permits are issued for certain administrative applications in one day.

– Pursuing state funding to automate the project review process.

We need your help to make automated permit review a reality. It’s our goal for customers to be able to file applications online and to check the status of their projects electronically. This improvement will require a new computer system and major state funding is necessary to carry out this initiative. Nevada has committed its share for the upcoming fiscal year, but California has not. If you support this endeavor, contact your state legislators to let them know.

— BMPs are important

BMPs are erosion and stormwater control practices that prevent sediment and nutrients from entering Lake Tahoe, helping developed properties function more like natural, undisturbed watersheds.

They are one of the most critical steps toward improving Tahoe’s water quality. Currently, 3,300 property owners in Incline Village have implemented their BMPs. This number represents more than half of all properties in Incline Village, which is a major accomplishment. This year, we’ll be working with the community to increase the number of BMPs completed, furthering Incline Village’s position as a role model for other communities around the Lake Tahoe Basin.

For more information on BMPs, visit http://www.tahoebmp.org or call the Erosion Control Team at (775) 588-4547, ext. 202.

— Keeping forests healthy

Protecting Lake Tahoe from the threat of a catastrophic wildfire is a major priority for the TRPA. We’ve been working with local fire districts for the last two years on a basin-wide community fire plan. We’ve been successful in securing grant funding to help communities prevent wildfires, and we continue to work with fire-safe councils to promote defensible space initiatives. The agency even changed its rules to ensure no bureaucratic roadblocks prevented fuels treatment work at Lake Tahoe. TRPA is a leader in helping to keep Tahoe safe from wildfire.

— Transportation progress

Last summer, after the hard work of many of us here at Tahoe, Congress earmarked $12 million toward improving transportation services in the basin as part of the recently passed $300 billion transportation bill. We’re researching the possibility of a waterborne ferry service from the south to north shores with a portion of this funding. We’re also receiving $4 million to replace the South Shore transit BlueGo fleet currently in use with new cleaner-burning vehicles. This is only the beginning. TRPA is committed to implementing a world-class public transportation system for residents and visitors at Lake Tahoe.

— Pathway: Unprecedented public participation

Well on its way through the first year of planning, Pathway 2007 continues to seek public participation and involvement as it plots out the 20-year future for Lake Tahoe. The four pathway 2007 agencies – TRPA, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, Nevada Department of Environmental Protection and USDA Forest Service – previously revised long-range plans independently of each other. Now, we’re working together to update our plans while incorporating public input throughout the process. Visit http://www.pathway2007.org for more information.

— Accountability questions

You may have read recent news reports about establishing more state legislative oversight of the TRPA. Our Governing Board’s responsibility is to provide oversight of the agency.

The board is made up of 15 members, all of whom are either elected or answer to an elected official. Six members are locally elected representatives and the balance of the board is appointed by state legislators, the governors of California and Nevada, the elected Secretary of State for Nevada, and we have one non-voting presidential appointee.

The Nevada Legislature has had a legislative oversight committee for 20 years now. The agency and the community have benefited from this committee and we would be pleased to have the California legislature follow suit.

The Nevada committee has been important to the operations of the TRPA, especially since the legislature meets only every other year. We welcome any and all oversight by the state legislatures and remain dedicated to conducting business in an open and transparent manner.

Given the amount of press coverage we receive, and rightfully so, we are perhaps the most scrutinized entity in the Tahoe Basin. The media often have a tendency to cover stories with negative or sensational biases. I would urge all of you to check out the facts by calling our office at (775) 588-4547, ext. 235, or by visiting our Web site at http://www.trpa.org whenever you hear a TRPA rumor floating around. You may be amazed at the real story.

Ð John Singlaub is executive director of TRPA. This column was first published in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.


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