Guest view: Solidly in support of Sierra Colina project | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Guest view: Solidly in support of Sierra Colina project

Norma Santiago

On July 11, an article appeared in the Tahoe Daily Tribune which left an impression that I would call for a motion to reconsider the Sierra Colina project based upon a flawed process.

My comments were taken out of context of a greater discussion of the project in which I did not waver from my support of the project for the many reasons I have articulated during the course of last month’s TRPA Governing Board meeting, as well as in many subsequent meetings I have attended.

I perhaps did not fully communicate my position to the media. I regarded the question as a hypothetical one, not based upon process, but based upon any new technical information to be presented, which, to date, has not materialized. I regret any public angst that this article may have caused. And, for those of you who, after having read the article, thought me crazy, I fully understand. The article left an impression contrary to that which I had so fervently expressed previously.

Notwithstanding, I was initially among those divided in my opinion to approve the Sierra Colina project. Had this project not included a comprehensive plan for environmental improvements utilizing state-of-the-art technology that will mitigate and correct runoff impacts from a larger area, I would not have supported it. As an additional bonus, this project is demonstrative of the importance of the public/private partnership necessary for the successful implementation of an Environmental Improvement Program (EIP) project. What Sierra Colina proponents were able to illustrate to me was that they had taken their responsibility to the environment very seriously and had proposed a project that not only provided significant environmental benefit, but also added many economic and social benefits as well. I don’t generally like new development when there is plenty of possibility for improving aging neighborhoods, installing better erosion control measures and upgrading existing recreational facilities. But, Sierra Colina is the closest thing to a model project; the kind of project that we should be approving at TRPA.

The TRPA is facing many challenges and should adjust their focus accordingly:

While recent studies show the degradation in lake clarity is leveling off, the near-shore results are not looking as optimistic.

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As the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) studies have reported, urban runoff from the current built environment is the largest contributor to fine sediments.

Aquatic invasives can very easily nullify any efforts or investments made to meet our clarity goals.

We have funding challenges related to the important implementation of the EIP.

At this very important crossroad, our priority must be the regional plan update. Discussions, dialogue and debate should focus on what we can do to further environmental improvements. Our discussions should be focused on broader policy issues not on who signs what, when, where and how on a buoy permit. Additionally, we need to clarify processes for project review and approval. The Governing Board needs to delegate authority so that we can concentrate on moving forward towards the implementation of environmental policy that gets us closer to the attainment of our thresholds. I look forward to that discussion.

– Norma Santiago is an El Dorado County supervisor and a member of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board.