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Oversight committee hears Tahoe Initiative

A California official spelled out the state’s $106 million spending plan for Lake Tahoe Friday, after listening to Nevada lawmakers express their desire for closer communications between the two states.

California’s Tahoe Initiative satisfies much of California’s share of a $908.6-million, 10-year rescue plan for Lake Tahoe put forward by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

On Friday, the Nevada legislative committee reviewing the bistate environmental agency listened to representatives of California, local governments and the private sector report their efforts to fulfill the goals of the TRPA’s Environmental Improvement Program. The hearing at Stateline’s Lakeside Inn was the second in a series to be held by the oversight committee, which will submit its report for action by the 1999 Nevada Legislature.



Dennis Machida, executive officer of the California Tahoe Conservancy, spelled out details of California’s proposed $95 million bond measure and $11.5 million in new state spending in the basin this year. The $95 million Tahoe bond, proposed for either the June or November election, would be the largest amount of money ever proposed for repairing Lake Tahoe’s beleaguered environment.

In addition to the proposed bond, the Wilson administration will seek $11.5 million in new funding for state agencies in the Tahoe Basin this year. The Tahoe Conservancy, with an average annual budget of $15 million, will receive an additional $10.3 million this year, much of it to go toward the state’s acquisition of environmentally sensitive land in the basin.



The state will spend another $721,000 to pay for two more California Conservation Corps in the basin. The youth employment service provides hand crews for Tahoe Re-Green, a coalition of public agencies that are trying to reduce the amount of dead, dying and overstocked trees in Tahoe’s forests.

Smaller amounts will go to the TRPA and the the state Water Resources Control Board for work at Lake Tahoe, Machida said.

“We are going to change the way the basin looks in the next decade,” Machida told the legislative committee that is chaired by Assemblyman Brian Sandoval, R-Reno.

While the committee received a rosy report from California, a TRPA official described an agency that teeters on the brink of a financial precipice. With the flow of general fund revenues from California interrupted in the past and overall funding remaining stagnant, the agency has had to trim staff and tighten operations over the past five years, said Jerry Wells, the agency’s deputy executive director.

“We are still trying to balance the 1997-98 budget,” Wells said during a “State of the Agency” address. “The general fund balance by the end of the year will only be 2 percent – only enough for a week and a half of operations.”

Sandoval and others on the Nevada oversight committee renewed their call for closer coordination with California in managing the bistate agency charged with restoring Lake Tahoe’s declining clarity.

“It’s kind of like two law partners working in different offices, never conferring and making independent budget decisions,” said Sen. Mark A. James, R-Las Vegas. “It’s all very ad hoc and transitory from year to year. We need to coordinate our efforts.”

Baetge said the provision in the agency’s compact that calls for California to provide two-thirds of its general fund and Nevada a third has created problems when one state cuts its share, as California did during its tight budgets of the early 1990s.

“Throw the one-third, two-third formula out,” said Jim Baetge, the agency’s executive director. “It’s been almost an unbelievable hurdle at times. The problems have to be resolved by both states.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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