TRPA requests more piers on Lake Tahoe |

TRPA requests more piers on Lake Tahoe

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Timber Cove pier.

The agency which regulates development here asked its governing board Thursday to consider approving 230 new piers on Lake Tahoe and to not allow grandfathering of unpermitted buoys.

The bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has been trying to find a way to regulate piers, buoys and motorboats on the lake since 1987, but its efforts have been consistently stalled by public outcry.

During Thursday’s workshop at CalNeva Resort, the agency revealed the contents of its proposed Alternative 6A, which it tested on the Governing Board and the public for feedback. A public hearing on the ideas lasted for four hours, with lingering concerns from all sides, especially the buoy grandfathering issue.

It’s clear TRPA is banking on this shorezone plan, the seventh in two years.

“We plan to put out the regulations based on what we’ve given you today, unless we get another direction from you,” said TRPA lead lawyer Joanne Marchetta.

The agency did not release the actual final environmental review and Alternative 6A document. When it does, the board has agreed it will allow 60 days of public review before voting on it.

At the end of the day, the board directed agency staff to look into ways to grandfather buoys and allow more flexibility for development on publicly owned land.

Since releasing a controversial shorezone proposal last summer, the agency has dropped its suggestion to limit motorboat traffic in Emerald Bay on weekends and a requirement to remove buoys each winter from Lake Tahoe. It lowered buoy permitting fees from $5,000 to $500.

What has stayed in their proposal is the number of new piers, 230, the number of new buoys, 1,862, the cost to permit a pier, $100,000, a boat sticker program, and an item banning further development in a large portion of Tahoe’s publicly owned lakeshore.

The Forest Service and the California and Nevada state lands commissions both complained about the lack of flexibility in the proposed Shorezone Protection Areas, which would restrict their ability to build trails, piers or buildings on their land abutting the lake.

“We don’t think it’s reasonable to restrict the public and their public land as a mitigation for allowing development on private land,” said Pamela Wilcox with Nevada State Lands.

Barbara Dugal, assistant chief of California State Lands, which owns the land below the low water mark, agreed. The California Public Trust Doctrine allows public access to land between the high and low water mark, although it is often privately owned.

“We want to make sure the public trust is protected and enhanced,” Dugal said.

Jay DeBenedetti, president of the Lake Front Property Owners Association, vowed to fight the public trust doctrine.

“We would strongly oppose and challenge the right to public access to the areas along the high to low water mark,” DeBenedetti said. He also questioned the necessity of a $100,000 pier permitting fee.

Several entities have argued allowing more piers and buoys will increase boat traffic on Lake Tahoe, so those new structures must have mitigations to protect the environment.

Conservationists scoffed at the revised proposal and its lowered mitigation fees.

“This further weakens a plan that the League believed was already too costly for Lake Tahoe,” said John Friedrich with the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

Michael Donahoe, representing the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, said he was advocating for the property rights of the public, which owns almost 90 percent of land around the lake, and all the land under the lake.

“As a property rights advocate, I don’t see the majority owners of this lake and the land around it being taken into account,” he said. “Their rights are being subordinated to the rights of the minority who live around it.”

The lack of an allowance to grandfather buoys raised the ire of longtime board member Coe Swobe, a former Republican lawmaker who helped form the planning agency in the 1960’s.

“Not grandfathering would constitute an unlawful taking of property, result in unnecessary lawsuits, and unnecessary animosity toward TRPA,” Swobe said.

For more information, visit or call (775) 588-4547, ext. 237.

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