Research poses problems with more piers |

Research poses problems with more piers

Andy Bourelle

Preliminary research by an Ohio professor may be the biggest sticking point in the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s intentions of allowing more piers, buoys and boat ramps on Lake Tahoe.

The Governing Board of TRPA Wednesday held a public hearing on the Lake Tahoe Shorezone Ordinance Amendments Draft Environmental Impact Statement, a 500-page, 2 -inch-thick report that could lead to changes in how development is handled on the basin’s shores.

TRPA planner Coleen Shade said research by James Oris of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, indicates a byproduct of boating called PAHs – poly aromatic hydrocarbons – has a toxic effect on aquatic animals. Sunlight largely enhances the danger PAHs cause. In water as clear as that in Lake Tahoe, where sunlight can penetrate deep water, the issue is of even more concern.

Research has shown that piers don’t harm fish-spawning habitat, according to TRPA, and under the agency’s preferred alternative as many as 50 percent more piers could be allowed at Tahoe. All littoral property owners would have the opportunity to build a “minimum pier.”

The problem arises because TRPA estimates boat traffic could increase dramatically with a change in the ordinance.

Shade said Oris may receive a $1 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to further study the issue.

However, that may not be the only problem with the proposed shorezone amendments.

Dave Roberts of the League to Save Lake Tahoe said the proposal could – in addition to causing environmental damage – hurt the scenery around the lake.

“The League has some serious concerns about the shorezone ordinance,” Roberts said. “Despite the size of this document – and I’ve read every page of it I’m proud to say – it’s inadequate. It’s very inadequate.”

Another shorezone analysis released in 1995 formed a basis for the latest evaluation. After the 1995 document was released, its public comment period was repeatedly extended because several agencies had concerns with it. A Shorezone Partnership Committee – composed of 25 stakeholders, including the League, U.S. Forest Service, TRPA and property owners – was formed to work out the differences. They met at least once a month for 1 years, and the latest document was the result.

While many of the issues were reached through consensus of the group, officials could not agree on some of the issues. One of the main areas without consensus was whether to lift the current moratorium of building piers in prime fish-spawning habitat. Despite objections from the League, Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, TRPA is proposing to lift the current moratorium.

Jan Brisco of the Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association said the issue of development along the shore needs to be concluded.

“(Property owners) have essentially been held hostage for the last 20 years,” she told the board.

The public-comment period on the draft environmental document closes July 2. Based on comments and continued meetings of the consensus group, a final document could be out in October. At the earliest, the ordinance amendments could be adopted in November.

The ordinance changes will affect all lakes in the basin.

Under proposed Tahoe shorezone regulations:

– Piers could be increased from 778 to 1,255 feet.

– Buoys could be increased from 3,536 to 7,767.

– Ramps could be increased from 42 to 70.

– Floating docks could be increased from 13 to 98.

– Slips could be increased from 2,745 to 3,186.

– Projected boating traffic could increase from 197,040 boats in 1998 to 309,854 in 2018.

Copies of the Lake Tahoe Shorezone Ordinance Amendments Draft Environmental Impact Statement can be viewed at the office of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in Round Hill or at any of the basin’s libraries. Written comments can be submitted to:


Attention Coleen Shade

308 Dorla Court

P.O. Box 1038

Zephyr Cove, Nev. 89448.


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