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Residents tell Feds how to save Lake Tahoe

Patrick McCartney

It was a time to brainstorm, not to debate, the facilitator said. Taking him at his word were nearly 200 Tahoe Basin residents who attended Thursday’s community forum in Stateline to help shape the agenda for this summer’s presidential visit to Lake Tahoe.

And after a few warm-up speeches outlining the principal issues to be addressed at the July summit on Lake Tahoe, the participants rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Breaking into a dozen different groups, the private citizens, public officials and agency employees described their concerns for Lake Tahoe and pointed to areas they want the president to become aware of.

Eleven-year-old Lela Sims of South Lake Tahoe, a sixth-grader at South Tahoe Middle School, said she was concerned that the trees cut down on lots next to her family home had remained on the forest floor for months.



“They don’t remove the dead trees,” Lela said, explaining that she was afraid the trees would catch fire.

Others in the group addressing forest restoration expressed different concerns.



“How far back do we mean when we talk about restoring the forest?” asked Tony Remenih of Tahoe City. “How can you restore something to the way it was before the area was developed? Now we have homes in the forest, and the amount of underbrush is just enormous.”

Ray Bernal of South Lake Tahoe described the thicket of red tape he encountered when trying to make a lot alignment on property he owns. He had to plant vegetation, reduce erosion, remove asphalt and pay for a bond.

“That’s too much bureaucracy for something so simple,” Bernal said.

Some came prepared with a list of concerns they wanted to see forwarded to the president. Phil Steinberg of South Lake Tahoe recited a litany of concerns over the Forest Service’s management of public, forested lands, but concluded by appealing for consensus.

“We need to take politics out of the equation,” Steinberg said.

The forum was the second of the week, and was hosted by the Presidential Steering Committee Lake Tahoe and the Water Quality and Transportation Coalition.

Jim Lyon of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the forum would give residents a chance to directly share their interests with the president.

“You can get a message to the president and vice president about what is important to you – what you are proud of and what you are concerned with,” Lyons said.

In introductory remarks, Brian Wallace of the Washo Tribe described Lake Tahoe as a commons shared by all people.

“For 9,000 years, this is where we called home, where we came into being,” Wallace said. “Today is a day to set out new traditions.”

Other members of the steering committee described the challenge of restoring Tahoe Basin’s water quality, forests and air quality in an era of shrinking revenues.

Describing the unique obligations Tahoe residents must shoulder – from limits on impervious coverage to the mandate to export sewage out of the basin – Stan Hansen of Heavenly Ski Resort said the goal of restoring the basin’s environment has never been in doubt.

“But the burden of the bistate compact on the private and public sector has been difficult to accept,” Hansen said.


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