TRPA review of Shorezone rules starts March 22
March 6, 2006
The shorezone: where land meets water. Where eagles fly, fish spawn, and swimmers ogle through crystal clear water at rocks 75 feet down.
The shorezone: home to the tiny endangered Tahoe yellow cress, found only at Lake Tahoe. Home to ski-doos, sailboats, kayak trails and powerboats. Home to kite-boarders, daily dog walkers, sunset romances, late-night skinny dips.
Shorezone: where children crawl on gray granite boulders and Canada geese honk at the sun. Where pedestrians say they dodge private piers to walk on public land. Where homeowners say they pick up what the public left behind.
The shorezone: Where the country’s wealthiest host the powerful and tycoons build fantasies of – a pier?
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has struggled for 20 years to find a balance between private property rights and conservation of a national treasure. It’s very simple: How many piers will extend out into its blue waters? How many buoys will bob on Lake Tahoe?
But yet, it’s oh so complicated.
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After 20 years, three environmental reports, and unending public controversy, the TRPA is going for gold on March 22.
Charged with protecting Lake Tahoe and regulating development, the agency’s staff will present a set of rules to its Governing Board it hopes could govern the lakeshore for the next 20 years.
Who is the TRPA?
Created in 1969 by a bi-state compact, the TRPA regulates development at Lake Tahoe. It must protect several environmental standards, including air and water quality, fish and wildlife, noise and scenery. It must also protect recreation as part of its mandate.
Lake Tahoe’s special status under EPA:
The Environmental Protection Agency has designated Lake Tahoe as Outstanding National Resource Water under the Clean Water Act. No activity is allowed which could further degrade Lake Tahoe’s waters with any amount of pollution for longer than a year. There are only two other bodies of water on the West Coast with this designation: Mono Lake and Oregon’s Crater Lake.
— Tahoe area Sierra Club: says TRPA would be violating its mandate to protect the lake if it allows any new piers or buoys. Collected 1,436 postcards last fall, most of which were against more piers.
— Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association: has threatened a lawsuit if public access is a condition to new piers
— League to Save Lake Tahoe: says TRPA must prove mitigation measures work before allowing more development
— Assemblyman Tim Leslie: got involved protesting a proposed motorboat ban at Emerald Bay. Says the pollution detected is the size equivalent of three postage stamps in the state of Texas.
The TRPA governing board:
— Chairman Allen Biaggi, Director of Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, member since 2004. Holds a seat by virtue of his job. Appointed to his job by Governor Guinn.
— Coe Swobe, Nevada at-large member since 2001. Former Nevada Republican lawmaker, wrote original bill creating the TRPA.
— Shelly Aldean, Carson City Supervisor, member since 2003. President of Glenbrook Co., a property management company which owns and operates several shopping centers in Northern Nevada.
— Jim Galloway, Washoe County Commissioner, member since 1997. Former aerospace engineer.
— Bruce Kranz, Placer County Supervisor, member since 2005. Thirty-year career with the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Also once worked for Assemblyman Tim Leslie.
— Chuck Ruthe, new Governor Guinn appointee since 2005. Real estate and gaming tycoon.
— Dean Heller, Nevada Secretary of State, member since 1995. Former stock broker and Nevada Assembly member.
— Mike Weber, South Lake Tahoe City Council, member since 2006. New Orleans native, former restauratuer and owner of Chase’s Bar and Grill in South Shore.
— Jerome Waldie, California Senate Rules Committee appointee, member since 1992. Former Democratic Congressman and state Assembly member.
— Julie Motamedi, Governor Schwarzenneger appointee, 2005. Corporate officer for Lakehouse Mall Property Management since 1998. Founding member of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation.
— Mara Bresnick, California Assembly Speaker appointee, 2005. A lawyer who works for Jones & Stokes in Sacramento, specializing in strategic planning and regulatory permitting and compliance. Also served from 1997-1999.
— Steven Merrill, Shwarzenegger appointee since 2005. Venture capitalist from San Francisco who funded startups E-Bay and America Online, among others. Family has owned a home at Tahoe City since 1915.
— Norma Santiago, El Dorado County Supervisor, member since 2005. Former women’s health center worker.
— Stuart Yount, President Bush appointee since 2003. CEO and co-owner of Fortifiber Corp., which sells building products to protect homes from water damage. Does not have a vote, has recused himself from shorezone debate.
— Tim Smith, Douglas County Commissioner, member since 2003. Thirty-year career as firefighter for Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, the last seven as chief.
— Any ordinance must be passed by a majority from each state, California and Nevada.
Recap from summer of 2005:
— Emerald Bay: TRPA says in Chapter 2 of Alternative 6 that boating traffic in Emerald Bay has resulted in “unacceptably high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.” In fact, the scientist who conducted the study indicated if there had been any less PAH in the bay, his instruments would not have detected them.
TRPA its proposed limited ban on motorboats during summer months was to mitigate for future levels of pollution predicted to come from the growth in boating on Lake Tahoe.
— TRPA longterm planner Colleen Shade says the Environmental Protection Agency’s definition for “longterm degradation” means pollution lasting longer than a month. EPA allows short-term degradation, which is defined as pollution lasting for weeks or months. PAHs evaporate from water within 24 hours to 7 days.
What’s at stake?
TRPA leaders have said what we’ll see on March 22 will be nothing new: a combination of previously proposed alternatives.
— Piers: Strikes to the heart of debate between private property rights and scenic conservation. Some lakefront property owners allege an inalienable right to build a pier on Lake Tahoe based on a right to wharf on navigable waters. Other lakefront owners are opposed, saying no amount of money can make up for what is lost when a pier is built.
Others have argued building a pier is the equivalent of allowing a homeowner to build a deck out of their yard into Forest Service public land.
— Motorboats: TRPA says if you add more piers and buoys, you will get more boats on Lake Tahoe, and so you have to mitigate for the increased pollution they will bring. However, between 1978 and 1988, boating on Lake Tahoe decreased 7.8 percent, according to their environmental document.
— Buoys: A hairy issue. Buoys have not always been regulated and permitted properly at Lake Tahoe. People who have unpermitted buoys want theirs grandfathered, not removed. TRPA thinks differently.
— Resource Protection Zones: Proposed on most public land abutting the lake, these would prohibit building any new structures, piers, buoys or boatslips in these areas.
California Department of Parks and Recreation opposes the idea because they’d like to add more buoys in Emerald Bay to address a problem of boaters anchoring on and damaging underwater cultural artifacts.
— Boat washing stations: Eurasian watermilfoil has spread from the Tahoe Keys to over 16 locations in the lake, including Emerald Bay. While boat washing stations will not prevent further infestation of milfoil in the lake, it could keep other non-native plants out of Tahoe.
— Boat sticker program: TRPA could not pinpoint a dollar amount last summer, but estimates were around $150 per year, to go toward paying for the boat washing stations. Some argued the Department of Boating and Waterways already has ample funds to help pay for the facilities.
1987: Regional plan adopted without shorezone rules because of controversy.
1995: First draft of environmental impact statement fails to pass before the Governing Board because of controversy
1998: Further studies completed of boating traffic on Lake Tahoe
1999: second draft report completed, but fails to pass muster
Early 2004: UC Davis Tahoe Research Group says standing piers in general enhance fish habitat. UNR professor Glenn Miller says PAH levels may not represent a risk sufficient to cause regulation of motorboats.
Summer 2004: Agency completes its third environmental impact report and five alternatives for how to regulate the lakeshore. Options include no new piers, decreasing piers, adding hundreds of piers, adding only public piers, buoys and ramps, or lifting restrictions on fish habitat.
Fall 2004: Agency receives 78 public comments. Drinking water suppliers say the first five options did not adequately address protection of drinking water sources in Nevada
2005: Alternative 6 released. Touted as a compromise of public comments received in 2004, the alternative was met with more controversy because of increased attention to a proposed limited ban on motorboats in Emerald Bay, newly proposed resource protection zones, boatwashing stations and a boat sticker program.
Agency receives 1,432 postcards, and 278 public comments.
2006: Governing Board member Coe Swobe suggests delaying public hearings until summertime, when more people will be present to voice concerns
Total as of 2005:
Piers: 768; public, 41; private, 727
Buoys: 4,454; public, 1,014; private, 3440
Ramps: 37; public, 18; private, 19
Slips: 2694; public, 948; private, 1,746