Public to create ‘vision’ for Tahoe |

Public to create ‘vision’ for Tahoe

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune Pathway 2007 members at Tuesday's meeting at the Valhalla Boathouse Theater from left are, David Ceppos, program manager for Collaborative Policy; Mary Beth Gustafson, United States Forest Service; Harold Singer, executive director of Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board; John Singlaub, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency; and Tom Porta, bureau chief of water quality planning at the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

Officials hope to use collaboration to help avoid lawsuits

By Gregory Crofton

Tribune staff writer

After interviewing dozens about the inherent challenges to a basin divided between two states and four counties, Dave Ceppos at first said no.

The senior mediator of the Center of Collaborative Policy said the nonprofit agency would not coordinate the public, scientists and policy makers in the creation of a 20-year forest management plan and growth plan for the Lake Tahoe.

Public policy matters in the basin have become too entrenched, divided and political – all things that are not conducive to reaching a true consensus.

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“It’s not a collaborative model,” Ceppos said. “We have to truly make sure all parties are being heard from.”

But after talking it over with John Singlaub, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and getting commitments from leaders of other public agencies in the basin, Ceppos accepted the job.

“We would be delinquent if at least we didn’t try to make this happen,” he said.

Ceppos, for the next three years, will guide an unprecedented effort to gather public opinion and create a vision to guide work on 20-year plans to be adopted for Lake Tahoe by the U.S. Forest Service and TRPA.

Ceppos and other public officials spoke Tuesday at a press conference in the Valhalla Boathouse Theater to launch Pathway 2007, the title given to the collaborative planning process.

“The only definition of success for Pathway 2007 is ‘a place for everybody,'” Ceppos said. “Whether it’s the director of an organization, a visitor, a single working mom with two kids – we need to provide opportunities … so that people interested in the basin can play an active role.”

Singlaub said one of the aims TRPA had in hiring the center for collaboration – a joint program of California State University, Sacramento and the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific – is to come up with a plan that won’t be tied up by lawsuits.

In 1984, after the agency delivered it’s first 20-year plan, two lawsuits were filed that claimed the document would not adequately protect the environment. The suits froze new building projects in the basin and began a consensus-based process to arrive at a plan that took effect in 1987.

“We needed to do something different and extraordinary to avoid the problems we had with the 1987 plan,” Singlaub said. “We want the mediation to occur before the plan gets done. Still there is a danger of getting sued. These are big decisions we are making.”

Those decisions include taking a fresh look at environmental goals, called thresholds, that the TRPA, Forest Service and other agencies agreed on in 1982.

The thresholds are designed to help balance the impacts of development with protection for the basin. The ultimate goal is to reverse the decline in clarity the lake has experienced in the last 30 years. A committee of Governing Board members working on Pathway 2007 have tossed around some ideas for changes to the thresholds.

“They’ve talked about combining fisheries and wildlife, adding transportation as a threshold, and having a socio-economic threshold,” Singlaub said.

The Pathway 2007 committee, Singlaub said, has rejected the idea of creating a socio-economic threshold, but so far it supports adopting a system to measure the impact a project or policy would have on the society and economy.

“We’re talking about it,” Singlaub said. “At least we’re talking about it.”

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at