Sierra Tract residents want boulders removed |

Sierra Tract residents want boulders removed

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Boulders line the edge of O'Malley Avenue in the Sierra Tract of South Lake Tahoe.

Property rights and environmental standards collided Wednesday when about a dozen Sierra Tract residents expressed their concern over South Lake Tahoe’s water quality improvement plans.

The city’s public works department hosted a hearing to review citizen comments needed for environmental documents so that it can to proceed with the 84-acre project that includes large boulders placed around public beach access areas.

The matter was put on hold until the next hearing scheduled for April 5 so the city could come up with some alternatives to resident complaints.

“There’s no way the negative declaration should be approved on this project. There are so many environmental problems not addressed,” Janet Cavallaro said, summarizing a flip chart of issues raised in the $19 million, four-phase project.

The biggest obstacles to proceeding are the large rocks placed to block access to offroad parking. Many residents call them an eyesore, hindrance and safety hazard. But to the city and the California Tahoe Conservancy, they represent one step in trying to control erosion from stormwater runoff.

“I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but we’re losing Lake Tahoe,” CTC erosion control program manager Steve Goldman said of lake clarity. Millions of dollars are paid in environmental improvements to protect Lake Tahoe.

Goldman warned the city may lose out on the $1 million the CTC board will vote on in May for the project if it doesn’t make a decision soon on what to do. Phase 1 cost $1.7 million. The next phase slated this summer will run about $3.7, so the money is necessary from the state. The project is funded under the multi-agency environmental improvement program.

“This is a big challenge. How do we do water quality improvements in areas developed before codes were enforced?” he asked rhetorically.

Built in the 1950s, Sierra Tract has narrow streets and no curbs and gutters – a quandary indeed for a city dealing with fewer dollars to do limited infrastructure to meet codes.

The city must complete its best management practices at Sierra Tract just the same way private property owners are required to do so to meet Tahoe Regional Planning Agency mandates.

But that didn’t stop a handful of residents among a dozen who attended the meeting to ask for alternatives to the rocks.

Lou Pierini, who lives outside the affected neighborhood, brought up the idea of the city using porous artificial turf – a material presumably less intrusive than the boulders.

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