Tahoe agency director makes an impression with Sierra Club
April 18, 2009
LAKE TAHOE ” A leader of one of the most active environmental groups in the Lake Tahoe Basin says he is hopeful about the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s direction under recently appointed Executive Director Joanne Marchetta.
Marchetta spoke to about 30 members of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club during their regular meeting at Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District’s Round Hill station on Thursday night.
“My job is to deal with what is, not with past fantasy,” Marchetta told the group. “And my job is to lead an agency that is not just a regulatory agency; we are also a regional planning agency. So our mission is this ” it is to accomplish environmental improvements that lead to threshold attainment.”
“We will either be remembered as the people who tried to restore this lake and failed because we couldn’t agree ” or as those who were successful because we put our differences aside and became dedicated to a cause larger than ourselves and our narrow interests,” Marchetta said.
Michael Donahoe, conservation co-chair for the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, said Marchetta is a “breath of fresh air” and said he was especially encouraged by the executive director’s statements on threshold attainment. Thresholds are the TRPA’s long-term environmental goals and cover a wide range of environmental categories. For example, the scenic threshold addresses how much of the land in the basin can be visually altered.
“If the TRPA can get back to meeting thresholds and abiding by the compact, that’s just great news,” Donahoe said.
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The planning agency has continually made decisions that don’t serve threshold attainment, especially when it comes to approving new construction on undisturbed land, Donahoe said.
Marchetta, who served as the TRPA’s legal counsel before being appointed executive director, mostly pushed for collaboration during her presentation to the group, but she was also critical of one tactic of interest groups in the basin.
“It does us and the lake no good after a long public policy debate to have withheld your constructive suggestions in order to exercise an old and dated tactic ” sue to make your point,” Marchetta said.
In November, the Sierra Club and the League to Save Lake Tahoe filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the legality of the agency’s update to its shorezone ordinances.
In December, the Tahoe Lakefront Owners’ Association did the same.
The TRPA’s governing board in October approved the ordinances ” which regulate development of the lake’s shore area, including the placement of buoys and the construction of piers.
Donahoe contends the TRPA forced the Sierra Club to file the suit because input from Lake Tahoe conservation groups wasn’t incorporated into the approved ordinances.
“The Sierra Club has been active up here for the past nine years, and this is our first lawsuit,” Donahoe said “We only resorted to that because we couldn’t get our perspective heard and there were differences in opinion about the law and we needed a judge to interpret the law.”
The lawsuit remains in its early stages, Donahoe said, while reiterating his support for Marchetta.
“She’s reaffirming the need to be science-based, she’s interested in consistency and that’s a good thing,” Donahoe said.