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Real work now begins

Patrick McCartney

With the glow slowly fading from President Clinton’s visit to Lake Tahoe Saturday, local officials say the real work is just now beginning.

In signing an executive order at the Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, Clinton set into motion a process to bring together all the public and private interests with a stake in Lake Tahoe to determine what to do next.

“Now we’re getting down to the real nitty-gritty,” said Carl Hasty, a principal planner with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “We need to find ways we can work together and make things happen.”

Along with signing the executive order, Clinton pledged $26 million in new spending in the Tahoe Basin over the next two years, doubling the amount federal agencies already spend in the basin.

The order created the Tahoe Federal Interagency Partnership, representing the federal departments that have the greatest role in the Tahoe Basin. Membership includes the secretaries of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation and Army, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the heads of any other federal agencies that are involved in the basin – or their representatives.

The group will have 90 days to meet with state and local agencies and private interests in the Tahoe Basin before reporting back to the president with a plan on how to achieve the president’s goal of protecting Lake Tahoe’s resources.

“Creating the partnership is a first step in a long journey,” said Dennis Machida, the executive officer of the California Tahoe Conservancy, and a member of the local steering committee that planned the presidential summit on Lake Tahoe. “This is when the work begins to determine and define the federal government’s commitment and to make it operational.”

Machida said the interagency partnership is broader than the Federal Coordinating Council created by the administration of President Carter in the 1970s. The council worked only with federal agencies to coordinate their activities in the basin, but did not create links with state and local agencies or with the private sector, he said.

Dennis Crabb, the city attorney for South Lake Tahoe and a member of the local steering committee, said the committee insisted that the federal government work with state and local officials and the private sector in setting its goals for Lake Tahoe.

“What this does is express the commitment to Lake Tahoe by the president, but not create another layer of government,” Crabb said. “They have 90 days to put together a program to implement the 25 points the president announced. The locals and private sector folks plan to be very involved in that, so this doesn’t become 90-percent administrative and 10-percent accomplishment.”

Crabb added that the executive order’s greatest effect will be to institutionalize the partnerships that the Tahoe Basin’s diverse interests have forged over the past 20 years.

Another steering committee member, Stan Hansen of Heavenly Ski Resort, said the federal strategy of developing partnerships with other basin players is a direct reflection of the local steering committee’s pleas.

“I assure you it was a bottom-up process, and not top-down,” Hansen said. “We spent long and arduous hours negotiating the outcome, and we urged them not to exclude the local interests. ‘Keep Tahoe blue’ and ‘Remember the private sector’ were our two mottoes.”


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