TRPA to Determine Future Levels of Development and Environmental Protection
It was five years ago this month that the president of the United States visited Lake Tahoe and drew national attention to the local community’s uniquely ambitious efforts to preserve the natural environment. This milestone marks an appropriate time for TRPA to make some important decisions about the level of development in the Lake Tahoe Basin over the next several years.
Since the Presidential Summit, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has led the cooperative effort to sustain the momentum of that event and generate additional federal and state dollars for environmental restoration projects and important scientific discovery. Also during this time, TRPA has allowed development in the Lake Tahoe Basin to proceed at the same level as the previous 10 years.
But as we found in our 2001 Environmental Threshold Evaluation and have reported in this column in recent months, we are not making the progress we had hoped to by now in several environmental quality areas, including water quality, transportation/air quality, and scenic quality.
TRPA’s in-depth analysis of progress made over the last five years reveals that we cannot continue to conduct business as usual at Lake Tahoe if we are to achieve timely attainment of our environmental standards. New development at Lake Tahoe has always been linked to progress in environmental restoration, but we believe now is the time to take that concept a step further.
So we are proposing that beginning in 2003, a new baseline for residential development be established at about half of the historical level. Potentially, less commercial development would be allowed, as well. Additional development up to but not exceeding the historical levels could be awarded, but only if significant new progress is made toward implementing measurable environmental improvements.
Those environmental improvements fall into four categories. One, permit monitoring and compliance, is already being used to a certain extent. The idea under the new proposal is that local governments would be rewarded with development potential above the baseline for achieving good or outstanding compliance with permit conditions issued for projects within their jurisdictions.
Another category is Best Management Practices implementation. Significant new progress in implementing soil erosion controls and runoff treatment on private property will earn additional development potential, as well.
A great deal of new emphasis will be placed on the third category, increased transit services. Residents and visitors to the area are still too highly dependent on the private automobile for moving around the basin. Under the proposal, TRPA will determine a current base level of service and a desired future level of transit service. Local governments will be rewarded with additional development potential depending on how much progress they can make toward achieving or surpassing the desired level of service. Over dependence on cars results in excessive congestion, pockets of poor air quality, and increased nitrogen loading to Lake Tahoe through airborne deposition. Public agencies and private industry alike are determined to increase transit services and provide more convenient transportation alternatives for residents and visitors.
Finally, local jurisdictions can receive additional development potential if they pick up the pace of Environmental Improvement Program implementation. The EIP is a strategy for improving environmental quality in all threshold areas by combining environmental project construction (see picture below), a sustainable project maintenance program, and knowledge gained from new scientific research in one comprehensive plan. Implementation of the EIP will cost nearly $1.5 billion dollars over time, several hundred million of which has already been invested in preserving the breathtaking beauty of Lake Tahoe for generations to come.
Public hearings on this proposal will be held by the TRPA Advisory Planning Commission on Wednesday at the Horizon Resort and Casino and the TRPA Governing Board on July 24 at the North Tahoe Conference Center in Kings Beach.
To review the meeting agendas and complete packet of information, visit the TRPA Web site at http://www.trpa.org.