Tahoe ranchers could face stricter grazing regulations | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe ranchers could face stricter grazing regulations

B.H. Bose

If the regional planning agency approves the amendments to its grazing chapter in its code of ordinances, livestock ranchers in the Tahoe Basin will be forced to deal with stricter regulations in the future.

In an effort to further control soil erosion, reduce water pollution, protect the destruction to vegetation, and to limit competition with wildlife, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will consider amending its chapter on livestock grazing regulations at its governing board meeting on Wednesday. A public hearing will be held, and if the board deems it appropriate, a vote to approve the amendments will follow.

While many may not associate grazing with the Tahoe Basin, there are approximately 725 (75 horses and mules, and about 650 in cattle – rises during breeding season) animals grazing on an area of about 34,900 acres in the Basin. To better understand the impacts, and to gather information about the proposed amendments, the Advisory Planning Committee of the TRPA requested the formation of the Grazing Advisory Committee in 1997. The committee, which consisted of affected livestock owners and representatives of appropriate government agencies, met a number of times to discuss the proposed amendments, to educate livestock owners about the amendments, and to provide information to the affected parties about financial assistance that might be available to assist them in meeting the requirements.

If the amendments are approved by the governing board, ranchers will have a number of new regulations to follow. Among them: maintaining or re-establishing woody vegetation where appropriate, maintaining an appropriate average height for plant growth within 35 feet of stream channels, no more than an average of 20 percent of new willow sapling growth shall be utilized by livestock annually, livestock will not be allowed in areas where sensitive plant species could be negatively affected. All owners of grazing operations will have to submit a grazing management plan, while all owners of livestock containment facilities – structures built or used to hold livestock – will have to submit a best management plan.

The grazing management plan, which must be submitted by a qualified range professional, requires: management goals; location and acreage of range; present condition of range (including vegetation, soil erosion and water quality); type and number of animals; carrying capacity of the proposed range; identification of the length of the growing season; descriptions of fisheries and wildlife resources; and a water quality monitoring plan to ensure compliance with existing TRPA and other state water quality standards.

Under the Best Management Plan, owners of confinement facilities must assure that there is: at least 100 feet between the confinement and any stream environment zones; the facility is located away from areas subject to overland flow from upslope areas; it is located on slopes less than 5 percent; it is located in areas where depth to groundwater is greater than 48 inches; there is no runoff flow into stream environment zones; there is containment of waste piles and there is no stockpiling of animal waste within 100 feet of a stream environment zone; and infiltration systems for storm runoff is installed.

The amendments to the chapters go into effect in 60 days from adoption. The TRPA is giving much more time for livestock owners to submit and comply to the necessary plans. All existing containment facilities should be brought in to conformance by Oct. 15, 2001. Grazing Management Plans should be submitted to the TRPA by May 30, 2001, and implementation of the plan shall begin within one year of approval by TRPA staff.

Both pasture grazing and livestock confinement facilities have been identified by TRPA staff to contribute to water quality problems, especially if the animals are allowed to trample seasonally wet areas or stream channels, or if overgrazing causes a loss of native vegetation cover.

The governing board will take feedback from the public at the meeting Wednesday, which will be held in Kings Beach at the North Tahoe Conference Center, and then possibly adopt the new amendments.

— In other items, the governing board is expected to approve the latest environmental impact statement for Project 3 on the South Shore. If the final EIS is verified and approved, it will allow the project proponent to move forward with the preparation for project application, said Pam Drum, spokesperson with the TRPA.

The proposed project is located in the area from U.S. Highway 50 on the west to Cedar Avenue on the east and from Stateline Avenue on the north to Park Avenue on the south. Three main structures will be constructed on the 19.42-acre area, including a convention center and 532-room hotel, an additional 177 units for tourist accommodations, parking facilities, and space for restaurant and retail businesses. There will also be a stormwater detention basin, additional underground parking and walkways, space for a seasonal outdoor market, studio space for artists, and the Lake Passage (a replica of the lake and surrounding Tahoe Basin, which will feature exhibits on the history of the Lake Tahoe Basin and pedestrian paths).

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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