Plan called essential for Tahoe environment |

Plan called essential for Tahoe environment

Shown the final details of a 10-year plan to restore Lake Tahoe’s environment, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board called the plan vital to accomplishing the agency’s goals.

On Wednesday, board members gave high marks to the final draft of the $908 million Environmental Improvement Program, even as the agency’s staff asked for another month to fine-tune the complex and comprehensive document.

“Pulling off the presidential summit and governors’ meeting without something as specific as this, we would have been waving around a copy of our goals and policies,” said William “Rick” Cronk, a Pete Wilson appointee to the board. “It would have been very difficult getting real money committed.”

The plan’s value is in the coordination and integration of the effort of public and private interests in the basin, said Carl Hasty, in charge of coordinating the improvement program for the TRPA. By identifying the projects, research and policies needed to achieve nine principal environmental goals, the plan creates a framework for accomplishing the agency’s goals and the financial plan to pay for it, Hasty said.

“The problem with our five-year reviews is that we are always looking in the past and not forward,” Hasty told the board. “It gives us the benefit of a focus, a mobilization of a broad group of forces all concentrating on one thing. I’m at a high point of optimism. This is the right path.”

The final plan calls for spending $908 million over 10 years on water quality, soil conservation, air quality, vegetation, wildlife, fisheries, recreation and scenic improvements. Sharing the cost is the federal government, at $297.2 million; the state of California, $275.1 million; the private sector, $152.7 million; local government, $101 million; and the state of Nevada, $82 million.

The lion’s share of the funding – $350.6 million – is targeted for reversing Lake Tahoe’s declining clarity through controlling erosion, the purchase of sensitive land and restoration of the basin’s wetlands. Soil conservation is allotted $192.7 million, air quality $129.1 million, forest health $42.6 million, wildlife $17.2 million, fisheries $65.8 million, recreation $70.1 million and scenic $39.9 million.

While almost all of the money over the decade will go toward land acquisition and capital improvements, $18.5 million will be spent on research, programs and regulations.

Even if the TRPA accomplishes its 10-year plan, however, more work will need to be done before all nine environmental standards, or thresholds, are achieved.

In fact, the $908 million would only complete the work needed to restore the basin’s forest health. Unfinished would be a fourth of all water quality projects, at a cost of an additional $86 million, and half of the projects needed to achieve the remaining seven thresholds, at an estimated total cost of nearly $400 million.

Funding to achieve all the goals will be sought after completion of the first decade worth of improvements.

But Hasty made it clear that the Environmental Improvement Program is a dynamic document that will be modified as research and monitoring warrant.

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