TRPA committee proposes raising fines for Harveys, utility district
STATELINE – Saying the fines were not large enough, two legal agreements meant to right environmental wrongs by a casino and a water agency failed to be approved on Wednesday by Lake Tahoe Basin leaders.
Attorneys at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency had recommended that Harveys Lake Tahoe casino pay a $45,000 fine for cutting trees and moving dirt and pavement without a permit; and that South Tahoe Public Utility District pay $10,000 for illegal excavation.
But after the settlement agreements were reviewed by the Legal Committee of the TRPA Governing Board, it recommended that Harveys be fined between $45,000 and $90,000 and that the fine for South Tahoe Public Utility District be increased to $20,000. The committee said the fines needed to be increased because the conduct was willful and that both parties have high profiles at South Shore.
Neither Harveys nor STPUD have agreed yet to a new fine amount. By law, the TRPA can fine someone $5,000 a day for as many days as a violation exists. But the Legal Committee said Wednesday that it intends to work out a more consistent method for issuing fines.
“We’re not assessing them in a uniform-enough manner,” said Jerome Waldie, committee chair.
Fines collected by the TRPA fund environmental research, public outreach work and restoration projects. The money is not used to fund the operation of the agency or staff, said John Singlaub, TRPA executive director.
There was one settlement agreement approved by the Legal Committee this week. It involved a $50,000 fine for illegal tree cutting and trimming next to a home on Scenic Drive that overlooks Rubicon Bay.
In October of last year, an anonymous complaint led TRPA inspectors to Robert Hogan’s deck, which had been expanded without a permit. More than 20 red and white firs were limbed or topped to enhance views of the lake and make room for the deck.
The cutting affected trees on Hogan’s property, his neighbor’s property and U.S. Forest Service land. As part of the settlement agreement to address the violations, Hogan will pay the fine, implement a forest restoration plan and apply for a permit for his deck expansion.
– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at email@example.com