TRPA budget increases |

TRPA budget increases

Despite earlier fears that there could have been problems in its funding, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s fiscal year 1999/2000 budget is looking good.

With more than $4 million expected to come from Nevada and California, the bistate regulatory agency’s upcoming budget is higher than last year.

“We’re obviously very pleased with the money we’re receiving from California and Nevada, and now we have a responsibility to do the right thing with these resources. Now, we (and other state agencies receiving money for environmental projects at Lake Tahoe) will be focused on getting the greatest return on the dollars that we can,” said Pam Drum, TRPA public affairs coordinator.

California is responsible for two-thirds of TRPA’s annual budget; Nevada is responsible for one-third.

The Nevada Legislature, in completing its budget process, agreed to give TRPA about $1.365 million. The governor is expected to sign those bills next week.

California’s Legislature is still in session; however, both the Assembly and Senate have agreed to give TRPA about $2.731. Officials expect the total budget to be passed and in time for the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.

From filing fees, federal grants and charges for service, TRPA receives additional money, pushing its budget over $5 million.

The additional funds this year will help pay for increased enforcement of the watercraft ban that just went into effect, create the position of a systems analyst to update TRPA’s Geographical Information System and increase staffing and resources for the agency’s Permit Integration Program and Environmental Improvement Program.

There had been a fear that TRPA’s budget request would be altered in Nevada.

Gov. Kenny Guinn proposed to shift TRPA’s source of Nevada dollars from the state’s general fund to a pollution control account within the Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety. However, the governor’s plan had been criticized by southern Nevada lawmakers who consider Lake Tahoe to be mostly a problem for Northern Nevada that shouldn’t drain funds disproportionately from all over the state. There was a scare at one point that $617,00 may not make it into the budget, and, because two-thirds of that then would be lost in California, the total loss to TRPA would be $1.8 million.

Nevada lawmakers worked out the differences, and the funding ultimately came from the special fund.

TRPA isn’t the only agency receiving increased funds this year for environmental projects at Tahoe.

“I think both states have recognized this is a real milestone year for Lake Tahoe. This is an opportunity to pick up the pace, and both states, I think, have responded accordingly,” Drum said.

The California Tahoe Conservancy may receive $20 million for land acquisitions and wetlands restoration projects.

Additionally, the Legislature approved a bill which authorizes $56.4 million in state bonds between now and July 2007 to pay for improvements at Lake Tahoe. The money will be administered by the Nevada Division of State Lands, and it will have to be administered every two years. However, it creates the ability to fulfill Nevada’s commitment to TRPA’s Environmental Improvement Program.

“We are in good shape, but it is not a blank check. We have to go back and prove we are doing a good job, and the money has to be there,” said Pam Wilcox, administrator of the Nevada Division of State Lands. “We’re going to be doing what needs to be done to protect the lake. It’s just an exciting time to be working in the Tahoe Basin.”

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