Reid: Lake Tahoe remains bipartisan issue
Propelled into the national spotlight as the new U.S. Senate minority leader, Harry Reid on Tuesday described an optimistic but challenging view of his new term that includes protection for Lake Tahoe.
The Nevada Democrat told the Tahoe Daily Tribune he plans on coming to his home state on Dec. 7 for visits to Reno and Las Vegas following his successful re-election against Richard Ziser on Nov. 2.
Reid pledged the 109th Congress would keep intact the federal money earmarked for Tahoe environmental improvement projects. The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2000 calls for $300 million over 10 years.
“I don’t think the Legislature is going to end it. Democrats and Republicans are committed to Lake Tahoe,” he said.
The U.S. Forest Service – which manages about 80 percent of the land around the lake – may not fare so well. But budget cuts would more likely affect areas outside the basin.
“I don’t think Tahoe will feel so much of that. You’re fortunate to have the Southern Nevada Lands Management Act to step in,” he said of the added funding mechanism, which uses the sale of public land to buy sensitive property in Nevada, including Lake Tahoe environmental restoration projects.
Rural America has become the catch phrase for all things political and social during this past election season.
For that, Reid plans to soon host a meeting with a group of senators including Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois – the minority whip, and Charles Schumer, D-New York, on how to best reach out to that segment of the population in terms of framing a political message and providing assistance in social services such as health care.
“This is extremely important. The reason (candidate John) Kerry lost this election is they failed to sell their message to rural America,” he said.
The gap was as wide a divide between Clark and Washoe counties and the rest of Nevada as the congressional caucuses.
Reid said he was disappointed a middle ground could not be found for the Intelligence Bill, which was packed with 9/11 Commission recommendations but failed to pass last week.
“The president tried to help, we think, but the problem was the Pentagon felt it would lose clout. Even a call from the president didn’t help,” he said.
Reid was able to celebrate a different matter when a close aide, Gregory Jaczko, was nominated to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“Greg will do a good job,” he said.
The important post holds special value to Reid because he has let it be known he’s the staunchest opponent of a proposal to dump nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Southern Nevada.
When President Bush said he’d proceed with the plan a few years ago, Reid used the platform at Heavenly Mountain Resort’s observation deck to call the president “a liar” because of an earlier pledge that the chief executive wouldn’t pursue the idea.
Reid sees the dump as a terrorism threat to transportation modes and a killer to tourism.
The senator hasn’t let go of his notion to form a U.S. tourism commission during these competitive times for the visitor dollar around the globe.
“Nevada would benefit tremendously. It’s become a destination. Other countries spend a lot of money on tourism and we don’t,” he said.
He admitted the idea has gained no traction since its proposal was made a few years ago.
The future holds tough decisions, including his own bid to run for public office again. He doesn’t know at this point.
All he knows is there could be a fight from Republicans.
“They went after me, but they didn’t have the right candidate,” he said.
Reid will also need to have a hand in committee appointments. His posts will stay the same.
The high-ranking Democrat took over as minority leader for Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, who lost his re-election bid.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at email@example.com