How TRPA is helping preserve Tahoe |

How TRPA is helping preserve Tahoe

John Singlaub

The stories, rumors, and myths about the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency are part of the lore of Lake Tahoe. It’s the stuff of urban legend. While some stories are based on facts, others are completely inaccurate. The purpose of this column is to explain the facts relating to TRPA’s role at Lake Tahoe.

Managing Sound Growth

TRPA was created in 1969 by the states of California, Nevada and by the U.S. Congress to lead a cooperative effort to preserve Lake Tahoe. Charting a course for sound growth in the region was and continues to be a major role of TRPA at Lake Tahoe. In the 1960s, local land use plans projected population growth at Lake Tahoe to reach 800,000, with freeways and high rise towers ringing the lake. Today, 65,000 people live within the Lake Tahoe Basin, with build-out projections estimating no more than 80,000. TRPA has played a major role in keeping Lake Tahoe a mountain community with a wonderful quality of life that is the envy of our city-bound neighbors.

Preventing Catastrophic Wildfires and Keeping Forests Healthy

In 2004, the TRPA Governing Board established forest fuels management as TRPA’s number one priority. We changed our rules to facilitate fuels projects in stream zones dangerously overloaded with brush and dead timber. We signed an agreement with the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District to encourage defensible space determinations around homes by the district, making it easier and more convenient for homeowners to protect their properties.

Using grant funds, the agency spent much of the year helping the seven fire protection districts around the lake develop fire risk assessments. These assessments identify high fire risk areas, prioritize forest fuels projects, and estimate costs of reducing fuels in the wildland-urban interface where communities touch the forest. With the completion of the individual fire district assessments, TRPA and the Lake Tahoe Fire Safe Councils are now completing a basin-wide fire plan, a critical step in securing the funding necessary to implement these important fuels management projects. Local fire district plans are available online at

Simplifying Rules for Woodstoves

Old woodstoves and fireplaces that don’t meet current air quality standards cause pollution that interferes with visibility at Lake Tahoe and can affect the lake’s water clarity. TRPA has a regulation that requires all homes sold in the Tahoe Basin which have woodstoves or wood heating devices to comply with air quality standards. If a woodstove doesn’t meet standards, the seller of the home is required to remove the stove from the property before the new buyer takes ownership (for more detailed information about which woodstoves meet air quality standards, visit our web site at

TRPA is working with local governments to make the reporting process easier during the home sale process. The Agency kicked off 2005 with the introduction if its revised wood heater retrofit program in Incline Village. The revised process eliminates the need for those who are selling property to send forms to both TRPA and Washoe County. Now, the only forms required go directly to Washoe County, simplifying things for homeowners. TRPA hopes to work with other local governments to streamline the process in other areas as well.

Connecting to the Community

Throughout January, a series of PATHWAY 2007 public visioning workshops were held to gather public input on what the Lake Tahoe Basin should look like in the year 2027.

Workshops were hosted locally in South Lake Tahoe and Incline Village, as well as in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and in San Francisco. Because Lake Tahoe belongs to locals, visitors and the people of both states, we felt it was important to gather input beyond the lake’s borders. The workshops attracted approximately 350 attendees. PATHWAY public outreach efforts to date include workshops, telephone surveys and public meetings. We’ve connected with nearly 2,300 members of the public over the last several months. Common concerns, themes and issues addressed by the public include just a few of the following:

— Management of forest fuels and fire protection

— Maintaining and improving lake clarity

— Establishing economic diversity within the Basin

— Making TRPA rules and regulations more understandable and less complex

— Focusing additional efforts on public education and outreach

A complete visioning summary report is available online at

TRPA is working hard to be more responsive to the public while achieving our mission to preserve Lake Tahoe. The lake belongs to all of us and we are dedicated to maintaining its stunning beauty for future generations.

If you have questions about TRPA, our mission or other topics, please visit our Web site at And, feel free to use the “contact us” button to send an e-mail with any comments, questions or concerns.

– John Singlaub is executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

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