TRPA supported artificial-turf playing field |

TRPA supported artificial-turf playing field

John Singlaub

I felt compelled to offer a response to Dr. Pat Martin’s recent editorial about artificial turf and the track project at South Tahoe Middle School. Dr. Martin’s column contained several incorrect statements and we want to set the record straight. The new field at the middle school was a terrific project that TRPA supported, and I personally encouraged the conversion to artificial turf.

TRPA waived all water-quality mitigation fees for the artificial turf ballfields on Al Tahoe Boulevard, as well as on the new middle school track because of on-site relocation of land coverage. Instead of requiring fees for excess land coverage, as homeowners or businesses would pay on projects, TRPA suggested restoration credits from El Dorado County and the city to offset impacts.

No expensive studies were conducted, at my direction in an effort to support the projects, and the county and the city did not incur the costs Dr. Martin mentioned. While we discussed the need for scientific studies on artificial turf in the Tahoe Basin, they were not undertaken or required. TRPA staff members volunteered multiple weekends helping to plant trees and to landscape the new track, and we share the community’s pride for this tremendous public asset.

TRPA recognizes that artificial turf is beneficial to water quality since it allows infiltration of runoff and requires no fertilizer or irrigation. While the turf may have benefits over asphalt or buildings, it doesn’t replace the value of vegetated soil in the Tahoe ecosystem. Laws relating to land coverage go far beyond TRPA, and to change coverage policies involves federal, state and other regulatory approvals.

As part of our Regional Plan update, TRPA is evaluating changing the legal definition of land coverage to exempt artificial turf for public play fields. Doing so requires a change to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act, which is a complex and time-consuming process.

The reason we have land coverage regulations is because we paved over or built on much of the Tahoe Basin before we had environmental standards in place. Approximately 75 percent of the marshes and 50 percent of the meadows at Lake Tahoe were altered because of urbanization from the 1950s through the ’70s.

That means we have a lot of catching up to do to restore the natural filtering wetlands which protect lake clarity. Thank you for the opportunity to get the facts out to the public about this important issue.

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

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