TRPA seeks input on shorezone proposals |

TRPA seeks input on shorezone proposals

John Singlaub

The shorezone at Lake Tahoe has a long and challenging history. Regulations affecting the construction of piers, buoys and other shorezone-related issues have been researched and debated extensively at Lake Tahoe since the 1980s. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s goal is to complete the shorezone environmental document and implement new ordinances this year.

TRPA released a draft environmental impact statement last summer and held many public workshops and hearings. We extended the public comment period to 120 days to ensure all voices were heard on these proposals. Since then, we’ve incorporated the community’s feedback and have developed a new alternative for the shorezone environmental document. We’re circulating this alternative for additional public comment for another 60 days.

What is the shorezone?

The shorezone is the area where the lake meets the land at Lake Tahoe. There are three areas that make up the shorezone and each area has its own elevation and unique characteristics that affect the overall health of Lake Tahoe and its shore. The shorezone is a sensitive area of the lake’s ecosystem.

For more than 25 years, the TRPA has not allowed new structures such as piers in areas considered “prime fish habitat.” These areas are still considered limited and fragile. However, scientific studies have been conducted over the last 15 years that show protective measures can be taken to reduce the impacts of additional piers on the lake.

Lake Tahoe’s special status

The Environmental Protection Agency has designated Lake Tahoe as Outstanding National Resource Waters under the Clean Water Act. Having this special designation calls for a non-degradation standard. There are only three bodies of water on the West Coast with this designation: Lake Tahoe, Mono Lake, and Crater Lake in Oregon.

Why are we doing the Shorezone Environmental Document?

The TRPA is required by law to plan adequately for development in balance with Lake Tahoe’s natural beauty. The current regional plan for Lake Tahoe was adopted by the Governing Board of the TRPA in 1987 after years of negotiations. Although some issues were not fully resolved at the time, in order to move ahead and implement the regional plan, the board decided to examine the potential for future development in the shorezone at later date.

New alternative for the shorezone

Called “Alternative 6,” the proposals for the shorezone are detailed and comprehensive. Here are some highlights:

— Density standards – “Alternative 6” calls for a density-based approach to piers around Lake Tahoe. Under this proposal, for the next 20 years there would be a maximum of approximately 220 new private piers and 10 new public piers. Under a “go-slow” approach, TRPA would issue only 10 private pier permits each year. Total pier densities would not exceed an average of one per 200 feet of sandy shoreline or an average of one per 100 feet of rocky shoreline. All piers would be required to meet minimum scenic and environmental standards.

— Buoys – Two buoys per lakefront parcel is being proposed for a total of 1,862 new buoys. A streamlined application process would be created to reduce the permitting paperwork for buoys along with an aggressive buoy enforcement program.

— Boat sticker program – Boating is part of life at Lake Tahoe. However, scientific data show that boats can hurt the water quality of the lake if certain measures are not taken. TRPA is proposing a new boat sticker program to make sure all boats entering the lake are free of invasive weeds, have lake-friendly engines and contain other water quality measures. The Agency is researching similar boat sticker programs throughout the United States to help develop one for Lake Tahoe. Funds collected from the program would be used to help pay for boat washing facilities, staffing at boat launch sites, inspections for aquatic weeds, water quality and noise monitoring, and wildlife preservation efforts.

— Emerald Bay protections – Research has shown that pollution from motorized watercraft is becoming a concern in Emerald Bay. Fuel constituents in the water during peak summer weekends are creating pockets of pollution in this pristine area. TRPA is proposing a closure of Emerald Bay one day per weekend (either Saturday or Sunday) in July and August for private motorized watercraft. This closure would not affect canoes, kayaks, sailboats under wind power or tour boats such as the M.S. Dixie. Because of Lake Tahoe’s special status under the Clean Water Act, the TRPA is required to address the pollutants being detected in Emerald Bay. All suggestions as to how best to address this problem are welcome.

Shorezone timeline

The lake belongs to all of us. I encourage everyone who cares about this special place to review the details proposed in Alternative 6 of the environmental document. The public comment period runs from July 5 through September 2. The TRPA’s Governing Board will vote to adopt new shorezone regulations by the end of the year. For a complete copy of the document and the new proposals, visit You can also e-mail your comments directly from our Web site.

If you have additional questions or concerns, please call Coleen Shade at (775) 588-4547 Ext. 228.

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

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