Presidential summit likely in late spring |

Presidential summit likely in late spring

Patrick McCartney

President Bill Clinton’s visit to Lake Tahoe will probably occur in late May or early June, according to officials who are responsible for putting together the national summit on Lake Tahoe’s environment.

According to preliminary plans, the summit will be a two-day event, with an all-day work session scheduled for the first day.

President Clinton will deliver a public address the second day, describing any new initiatives or goals for the Tahoe Basin adopted at the summit.

The first meeting of senior agency representatives to plan the summit was held last week, according to an official in the White House environmental office who agreed to speak on the condition his name not be used.

The official said the president will use the prestige of his office to focus attention on the progress Tahoe Basin public and private interests have made toward preserving the area’s environment.

“He will lend the weight of the president to give credit to all the parties who have put their shoulders to the wheel to resolve the conflicts over protection of the lake,” the official said. “We want to ensure that the federal government is collaborating in the most thoughtful way possible with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the two states and the stakeholders.”

The White House official added that the summit will also serve to emphasize the importance of balancing environmental and economic interests in the basin.

“The president and vice president understand that the challenge the government faces at Lake Tahoe, as in the Everglades, Yosemite and the Northwest forests, is to help steward the relationship between environmental health and economic well-being,” he said.

Details of the summit will be worked out over the next several weeks, according to a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, including the location of the meetings, who will be invited to participate and the exact date.

“We will hammer out all the details in a series of meeting over the next three weeks,” said Susan McCue.

The overall goal of the two-day summit will be to enhance Lake Tahoe as a national and international resource, according to an agency memo issued by William McCleese, executive assistant director of the U.S. Forest Service.

In the memo, which was sent to the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, McCleese identified lake clarity, transportation, forest health, air quality and encouraging environmental partnerships as the primary issues to be addressed at the summit.

The secondary goal will be to apply any positive results from the conference to the rest of the Sierra Nevada, said Linda Massey, public information officer for the Lake Tahoe unit.

Local officials have been asked to identify possible locations for the conference, preferably at locations near the water, according to Pam Drum, a spokeswoman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. No site has been selected yet, Drum said, although the agency is looking at possible locations on Lake Tahoe’s north and south shores, including hotel casinos.

She said it is likely that a different venue will be chosen for each day because of the difference in the number of people expected to attend the working session and public meeting.

Drum added that local agencies are exploring new ways the federal government could assist the effort to preserve Lake Tahoe’s unique environment, including its renowned clarity.

“We want to poke into the nooks and crannies (of federal authority) we may not have been aware of, and stimulate the creativity of federal officials,” Drum said. “There has to be fresh ideas out there, and we want to bring them to the surface.”

The White House official said it may not be easy to furnish new funding for the Tahoe area, but that efforts will be made to leverage the $30 million in bond revenue for the basin approved by California and Nevada voters last fall.

“We will rifle the cupboards and see what we can do, given the financial limits we face,” the official said. He added that elected officials have expressed “an overwhelming amount of interest” in participating in the Tahoe summit.

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