Pressure builds on shore plan
Though the governing board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is not scheduled to discuss the new shorezone plan at its Wednesday meeting, some board members said this week they’re looking forward to hearing “plenty of feedback” during public comment.
The release of a new shorezone plan, already postponed twice this year, may be in jeopardy once more, perhaps being pushed back to a summer 2007 release if some basin groups and board members have their way.
Six proposed versions of the new plan have called for regulation of building public and private piers, a boat ban on Emerald Bay and a buoy removal program.
Facing public outcry on all fronts, TRPA staff went back to the drawing board and released Alternative 6A in May.
While not codified into ordinances, the newest working plan called for approving some 230 new piers on Lake Tahoe and not allowing the grandfathering of unpermitted buoys.
This again outraged many groups but more importantly has seemingly galvanized some unlikely bedfellows along the way.
This week Jan Brisco, executive director of the Tahoe Lakefront Owners’ Association, noted her group has aligned its efforts with several other basin groups, including those representing environmentalist organizations.
In a Catch-22 Brisco said her group is anxious to see the ordinances, but thus far has also felt “locked out” of the public process, making it very difficult to support or rebuff any of the TRPA’s work thus far.
“(TRPA) is already overdue in their commitment to us,” Brisco said. “But, we have no way of knowing how our comments over the last two drafts have been treated. How we can be partners in restoration? We’re not sure where we stand and we’re not alone.”
Brisco also mirrored environmentalist groups and board members’ concerns that if and when the ordinances are released the review process will not meet established standards, nor will the proposed review period be enough time for the public.
“When (TRPA executive director) John Singlaub says it’s a ‘very generous’ 60 days for review, that’s not a long time to review a document of this size,” Brisco said. “The ordinance package, that’s what needs to be reviewed. What they’ve done is analysis and come up with ordinances that match the analysis, that’s the classic cart before the horse.”
Governing board member Coe Swobe, who, with Jerry Waldie, proposed the plan’s release be early summer to allow for a 60-day review, expressed concern earlier this month that the board saw nothing from staff during the summer months.
“I will ask the board to delay the hearing until next summer,” Swobe said.
Lakefront Owners’ Association director Brisco said that when Singlaub took the helm of the TRPA, a Shorezone plan was something he promised to deliver in the first year.
Now the plan is in jeopardy of being released at the same time as Pathway 2007, Brisco said.
TRPA staff said that’s not going to happen.
“It is John’s philosophy and position to have shorezone on a separate track,” TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said referring to the absence of a shorezone plan in the basin for the last two decades. “The reason (shorezone) was not included on the last regional plan because it was so controversial.”
“We have held from the beginning that it makes better sense to have two different tracks in place to ensure optimal outcome.”
But for some, it may already be too late.
“We were promised something in May, that’s when Coe Swobe came up and said we wanted to review in the summer,” Brisco said. “We have to disseminate that information to 2,400 lakefront owners in our membership database, so we can figure out how they want to respond. We really need to figure out what’s going on. TRPA’s going to release (the plan) and then be in a big rush to adopt it – we’re really worried about this. (Singlaub) has said this in a number of meetings ‘I just want this off my desk’.”
To complicate matters further, a May letter from the EPA’s Western offices criticized the TRPA’s environmental review, its proposals to allow more piers and buoys on Lake Tahoe, and its delay of a boat sticker program to regulate motorized watercraft in the latest shorezone plan. It said the overall package will result in significant increases in air and water pollution.
Since releasing Alternative 6 in summer 2005, TRPA dropped its suggestion to limit motorboat traffic in Emerald Bay on weekends and a requirement to remove buoys each winter from Lake Tahoe. It lowered buoy permitting fees from $5,000 to $500.
What has stayed is the number of new piers, the number of new buoys, 1,862, the cost to permit a pier, $100,000, a boat sticker program, and an item banning further development in a large portion of Tahoe’s publicly owned lakeshore.
Both environmental groups and the homeowners’ association are concerned about the science being used to determine what can be built on the lake – some may be surprised of the groups’ congruity on the shorezone issue.
“We want the science and the data and we want the goals to be very clear and very consistent,” Brisco said. “In some cases that will preclude some people from having piers and let others have piers, but we can’t wait for TRPA to be the end all be all, we have to take responsibility. We’re spending a lot of time and money on a few piers, water clarity and TMDL. We have a lot of similar goals with the League to Save Lake Tahoe and Sierra Club – we are collaborating together as organizations.”
While Sierra Club and League to Save Lake Tahoe representatives were reticent to speak about the extent of collaboration with other groups, a sentiment that the best laid plans for the Shorezone plan to be pushed back has been vocalized.
“It makes a lot of sense (to push back until next summer),” said Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “The plan clearly needs more work.”
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