TRPA makes enviromental program easy to understand |

TRPA makes enviromental program easy to understand

It was just two years ago that the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board officially adopted Lake Tahoe’s Environmental Improvement Program, and to mark the occasion, TRPA is updating and improving the program documents.

The EIP update process will create a more user-friendly set of documents that will:

nPrioritize project, research/monitoring, and maintenance needs.

nprovide a comprehensive finance plan.

nLink progress in EIP implementation to environmental threshold attainment.

nIf sufficient funding is available, analyze the organizational and process changes that are necessary to more effectively implement the EIP on a regional scale.

Most of the millions of dollars in capital project, research/monitoring, and program needs identified in the EIP are spent by agencies and organizations other than TRPA. It is critically important that we hear from all these EIP implementers in the Region including federal, state, and local governments; special districts; research institutions; private property owners; tourism agencies; and business owners. The update process provides an opportunity for all these partners to submit their project priorities, contribute ideas on how to fund the projects, and create a regional accounting mechanism that credits expenditures to federal, state, local and private funding sources.

TRPA will also use this opportunity to create a more comprehensive database within the Geographic Information System. This electronic format will allow all EIP implementers to more easily access project data, track project completion and provide updated project information.

So what does this whole update process really mean? It means that we have an opportunity to exercise a new way of doing business in the Lake Tahoe Region … at least the business of environmental protection. We have the opportunity to streamline the EIP implementation process, from beginning to end, with the goal of realizing more immediate results. The urgent time line we are on has been set by an imperiled environment that has no patience for anything or anybody who resists change. Many of the partners in EIP implementation have already turned heads with their innovative approaches. The state of Nevada, for example, has hired additional natural resource professionals who are dedicated to EIP implementation. Although they work for different agencies, the Nevada Tahoe Resource Team members are housed in one office and have worked closely with TRPA to coordinate and construct more than $10 million in EIP projects in the past three years. The projects include erosion control, stream environment zone restoration, storm water treatment, forest health, wildlife habitat restoration and recreation projects.

In addition, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) has created an award-winning model of partnership that has resulted in a plan to spend more than $90 million by 2010 on EIP projects and other highway improvements. Last year, NDOT spent nearly $15 million on the Memorial Point Lookout project, erosion control projects, storm drain improvements, pedestrian paths, and bike lanes.

In California, three Cabinet-level agencies and eight departments are members of the new Lake Tahoe Inter-Agency Council that is focused on updating the EIP and addressing budget issues. Since the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, California agencies have spent more than $10 million each year on sensitive lands acquisition and erosion control, stream environment zone restoration, recreation and other projects.

Caltrans also has committed to construct its EIP projects by 2007. The department has initiated a partnering process to engage all the local interests who have a stake in the Caltrans program.

TRPA will continue to work with our partners at the federal and local levels, as well, to move forward with similar innovative approaches to implementing the EIP and, ultimately, to achieving the level of environmental quality to which we all aspire at Lake Tahoe.

Pam Drum is the spokeswoman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

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