Guest column: California Parks Department gets it wrong in Washoe Meadows (opinion)
There is no doubting the energy state parks officials in Sacramento have been putting into transforming the department since it was rocked by scandal and financial mismanagement just a few short years ago.
But there is no better example of the real life dangers of their zeal to restore the agency’s reputation and budget than here in Tahoe.
Here’s their plan for the Upper Truckee in South Lake Tahoe: Downgrade protected park land, plow it under and expand the golf course to that side of the river. Then use overly-optimistic projected golf revenues to support scientifically dubious wetland restoration work.
The arguments put forward earlier this month by their taxpayer-funded PR firms during the parks-sponsored tours of the site are compelling but wrong.
The erosion and sediment it purports to prevent from further clouding Lake Tahoe is trivial compared to the erosion and sediment caused by development, road work and even golf course construction.
The plan has been moved forward so hastily and with such little exploration of financially and scientifically sound alternatives that the state court of appeals last year determined parks department’s environmental document for the project was invalid.
It’s also why the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and numerous conservation groups don’t support the state plan.
Rather than go back to the drawing board and seek a long-term solution, state parks simply gave the plan a legal tune up and came back out with basically the same environmental impact report on July 1.
Public comments are due July 30 and it has conveniently canceled its only July public commission meeting.
Department officials have stated a final approval of the plan is intended to take place at the October parks commission meeting.
It leaves our community — golfers, residents and outdoor enthusiasts alike — with no option but to again help shed light on bizarre behavior from a troubled state agency.
From Resources Agency Director John Laird to Parks Director Lisa Mangat to the parks commissioners themselves, the agency must hear from all of us in Tahoe, not just our community.
The message is simple: The threats to our pristine lake and surrounding open space are going nowhere and will only increase. So why dispose of any amount of state park land if it can be avoided?
A long-term solution is not impossible to find. Frankly, simply working with a more dynamic golf operator with the experience and vision to enhance the golf experience within the existing course footprint would solve a lot of the problems.
Since the parks department would need to back fill its lofty golf revenue projections with future infusions of federal, state or private foundation money anyway, it ought to just establish a realistic wetlands restoration funding plan now.
So, if you love Tahoe, then you too need to act. Take the simple step of sending an email Resources Secretary John Laird (email@example.com), Parks Director Lisa Magnat (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Parks Commission (email@example.com).
Tell them to preserve all of the land in Washoe Meadows State Park, and to help us with a long term solution to protect and enhance the open space and wetlands surrounding Lake Tahoe.