Marina expansion a mistake |

Marina expansion a mistake

Column by Claire Fortier

Yet another Tahoe project has been crippled by compromise.

Between raised voices and much lawyering, the Tahoe Keys Marina won permission from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for an expansion. The final plan calls for 150 new boat slips, 120 new parking spaces and 6,000 more square feet of floor space.

That’s a significant expansion. However, the final agreement with the TRPA fails to address the size of that expansion.

The agreement, and the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s outrage over it, are as much symbolic as political. But neither embraces reality.

The Tahoe Keys and the Tahoe Keys Marina have been a symbol of all things ecologically evil at Lake Tahoe. Big boats, lush, fertilized lawns at the lake edge, huge houses that block more than a glimmer of a lake view, a filtration plant that is rarely used or used incorrectly. These are seen by many as ecological insults inflicted by the rich.

That the marina and the Keys are two different entities and have little to do with each other escape most people in the basin. Both symbolize the excesses of the wealthy, despite the fact the Tahoe Keys Homeowners Association and the marina have been at odds for years.

Further, the marina has not been the best steward of its land. Boat docks have gone up without TRPA approval. The boat yard has been packed with old trailers and tools.

Often the marina management has seemed more willing to make a buck than preserve the lake.

So it is hardly surprising that the TRPA used the opportunity of an expansion to get a better handle on a business entity operating on its own agenda. The hoops the TRPA required were certainly formidable, but fair. The agency compromised, and the marina lived up to most TRPA expectations.

But the TRPA made one big mistake. It allowed the expansion without really allowing for the safety and traffic impacts of that expansion. The worst oversight was not widening the narrow channel to the lake to allow for the increase in boat traffic. Rather than pushing for the channel widening, the TRPA required yet another environmental impact statement to be completed on that issue.

In the meantime, the bottleneck of boats at that narrow channel, particularly as the lake level lowers during the drought, presents very real safety problems. Boats bunching up at either ends of the channel, particularly on holiday weekends, could be disastrous.

The other mistake the TRPA made was not requiring more parking. While 120 spaces sounds adequate, that is only one parking space for every four boats.

It doesn’t take into consideration the possible 6,000 square feet of expanded floor space or the 10 spaces earmarked for the Tahoe California Conservancy’s new Cove East project, which is supposed to allow more public access to the lake. Instead of creating enough parking at the on-set of the project, the TRPA’s decision will amount to shoe-horning in more boats, cars and customers into 1.3 acres of new parking.

Even as the TRPA was using every weapon in the arsenal to squeeze out a plan from the marina, the League had its sites aimed on sinking the entire project. The marina expansion is a made-for-prime-time issue. The size of the expansion rankles a lot of people, as does the environmental impact of another 150 boats going out to the lake.

The marina already houses 239 boats. On busy summer days, the marina looks like a freeway. When the marina put in 70 boats slips illegally, the marina resembled the Santa Monica Freeway at rush hour.

Based on the boat issue, the League came up with the argument that more boats will create more PAH — yet another fuel by-product that sounds awful but hasn’t really been studied. Yet the League, rather than bring up the obvious issue of too much boat and car traffic, finds the obscure. The obscure is more difficult to prove and therefore more costly to defend.

For the League, blocking the marina expansion may be well within the best interest of its backers. Without more boat slips, the cost of keeping a boat at Lake Tahoe will get outrageously expensive, eliminating most recreational boat owners. That keeps the lake pristine, and exclusive.

The Tahoe Keys Marina expansion is a huge project that will have a significant impact on the lake, the Tahoe Keys and the Cove East project.

But those who have the most power to control or mitigate that expansion are caught up in rhetoric, not reality.

The reality is that the marina expansion will create traffic congestion on the ground and in the water, and it will do so without the necessary factors in place to ease that congestion.

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