TRPA faces long environmental road |

TRPA faces long environmental road

KINGS BEACH – Lake Tahoe’s bistate regulatory authority Wednesday agreed to use $6.3 million in federal transportation funds to overlay a section of highway from Tahoe City to Crystal Bay.

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board members, however, expressed concern that the paving would happen this year but environmental projects associated with it likely wouldn’t happen until 2006.

“I don’t see Californians stepping up to the plate,” said Kay Bennett, a Carson City supervisor and TRPA board member, citing that when the Nevada Department of Transportation implements road work it includes necessary environmental improvements.

The board, however, approved the recommendation, saying essentially that some work is better than no work.

“We can’t afford to let the roadway go to hell at this point, because our problems are going to be worse,” said Larry Sevison, Placer County’s appointee to TRPA and chairman of the board. “We’re going to have blacktop in the lake, not just dirt.”

Historically, TRPA had no say in where California State Highway Operations and Protection Program funds were spent. Resulting from the 1997 Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum, however, TRPA has also become the Tahoe Metropolitan Planning Organization for the region, giving it a voice in where SHOPP dollars go.

Dick Melim, the California Department of Transportation’s deputy district director for Tahoe, told the board Wednesday that Caltrans was committed to spending more than $50 million on transit improvements at Tahoe over the next seven years.

“2006 can be considered the worst-case scenario,” Melim said. “We think we can do better; we just have to work out a schedule.”

Tahoe officials have long thought NDOT’s progress in helping environmental efforts in the basin has far surpassed the efforts of Caltrans. However, officials Wednesday said the California agency has been making significant progress the past several months.

“I applaud you,” said Tom Davis, representing the city of South Lake Tahoe on TRPA’s board. “You still have a long way to go, but you’re making progress.”

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