Shedding light on a 20-year debate |

Shedding light on a 20-year debate

One of my priorities since becoming Executive Director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in 2004 has been to find solutions to the long-standing debate about management of Lake Tahoe’s shorezone. The shorezone is the area where the lake meets the land and it is a fragile part of our overall ecosystem.

After nearly two decades of debate, it’s no surprise that shorezone issues are controversial and evoke strong emotions from a multitude of often conflicting interests. However, after last summer’s introduction of Alternative 6 to the shorezone ordinances, I feel great strides were made in devising a plan for the future of the lake’s shorezone. Now, as our Governing Board members inch closer toward voting on a final alternative, I’d like to share some of the highlights.

TRPA’s plan reflects public input

Over the last two years, an environmental analysis has been completed on six different alternatives relating to future development in the shorezone of Lake Tahoe. Some alternatives call for no more private piers and others call for several hundreds more. Last summer, I referred to the process we’ve been working through as democracy in action. While I know we’ll never satisfy 100 percent of the community with the final shorezone plan, I believe we’ll come closer in 2006 than we have over the last 20 years.

After holding extensive meetings and workshops where vital public input was obtained, TRPA’s staff is recommending a refined version of Alternative 6 that includes changes based on what we heard in public comments. This refined alternative takes a measured, “go slow” approach that will protect Lake Tahoe. It’s our hope the refined shorezone alternative will provide for streamlined regulations that will be more effective and efficient. Shorezone planning experts are working hard at compiling and addressing public comments so solutions to problems brought forward with Alternative 6 can be found where possible. Responses to public comments will be posted on our Web site along with the refined alternative later this summer.

One example of how we’ve incorporated public comments into our refined alternative relates to Emerald Bay. In alternative 6, we included a proposal to give Emerald Bay a “rest day” from motorized watercraft one day per peak weekend in an effort to prevent future pollution. With the prospects of more buoys and piers on Lake Tahoe, we’re concerned about the potential for degrading the spectacular waters of Emerald Bay. By working with the community and other agencies and organizations, we believe we’ve found another solution that addresses the protection of Emerald Bay: to lower the speed limit to 5 miles per hour. Because boat emissions are significantly reduced at lower speeds, and engine efficiencies improved, this approach can help reduce pollution while providing added benefits to public health and safety.

At a special public workshop at the Cal Neva in Crystal Bay on May 25, TRPA staff asked for policy guidance and direction from the Governing Board-a final decision on the shorezone rules will come later this summer or fall. The workshop explained the history of the shorezone planning process and provided a detailed summary of the soon-to-be-released refined alternative. If you were unable to attend the workshop on May 25, check our Web site for future meetings and public hearings.

The shorezone program we’ve brought to the board is based on 20 years of experience and lessons learned. And while the idea of complete consensus on one alternative is highly unlikely, we have engaged in robust collaboration to create a proposed alternative that requires the implementation of new shorezone ordinances which would bring closure to the 20-year debate.

What’s next on the shorezone timeline?

The minutes and public comments from the May workshop will be available online over the next two weeks. For a complete look at the previous six alternatives on the shorezone, visit When the refined alternative and proposed ordinances are complete, they will be available online as well. You can also e-mail your comments or questions directly to TRPA from the Web site.

Thanks for joining me in your concern to preserve Lake Tahoe and in this instance of democracy in action.

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

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