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Pathway group debates ‘triple bottom line’

KINGS BEACH – It was a continued slide into the us-verses-them mode as February’s second Pathway 2007 Forum picked up with the environmental side voicing concerns about continued urban growth.

The “triple bottom line” concept brought forth in earlier forums was called into question by one environmental group spokesman.

Sierra Club conservation co-chairman Michael Donahoe, who has missed the last few forum meetings, returned vexed at how the interpretation of the triple bottom line concept changed in his absence.



“I thought our triple bottom line was science, technology and community support,” Donahoe told a room of some 40 basin forum representatives at the North Lake Tahoe Community Conference Center in Kings Beach. “It seems the (triple bottom line) concept has gone to a purely economic framework.”

Donahoe’s comments were preceded by Jennifer Merchant, Tahoe manager for Placer County’s executive office, who noted homes and businesses were paramount in the triple bottom line plan with specific regards to the stream environmental zone (SEZ) plans.




“I think looking at restoration from a purely (environmental) standpoint may mean tearing people’s houses and businesses down,” Merchant said. “We have to look at a financial impact; when we look at environment only, where we’ve been for the last 20 years, it doesn’t necessarily work.”

David Jinkens, city manager of South Lake Tahoe, took Merchant’s sentiment a step further.

“Even if we returned to nature totally, does this ensure it will improve air and water quality?” Jinkens asked rhetorically. “We all love nature but I’m not sure nature is a friend of water and air quality.”

Jinkens used Hurricane Katrina as an example of how development is not the only enemy to the environment.

Bringing the forum back on point, TRPA executive director John Singlaub said a workable SEZ plan should “provide appropriate (environmental) incentives (for restoration) as well as financial.”

Gabby Barrett, TRPA’s division chief of long-term planning, presented the updated SEZ plan to the group as a document that is “still in its working stages.”

Even the SEZ vision statement itself was admittedly “a little long and not ‘visioning’ enough,” Barrett said.

The goal of the SEZ looking two decades out is to have 25 percent of urban areas “restored” with a plan for the first five years already laid out.

“Some areas we’re not going to restore as much acreage, but if it’s a more important area that is significant to us,” Barrett said.

Laurel Ames of the Sierra Nevada Alliance took umbrage to the notion that some stream zones are more important than others.

“You say quality over quantity,” Ames said. “There’s no science to support that.”

But Barrett noted that some stream zones that directly impact and “add the greatest value” to the lake’s clarity with their runoff are deemed as important.

The Pathway 2007 forum, created to chart the regional, multi-agency plan in Tahoe for the next 20 years, also discussed soil, scenic and noise ordinance guidelines Thursday. The group will meet again Thursday, March 16 in South Shore. Pathway’s implementation timeline will stretch into 2008 agency officials noted last December.


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