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TRPA to examine livestock grazing

Andy Bourelle

It’s an issue that never seems to be resolved – grazing in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency this week will revisit the issue, possibly adopting an ordinance that would regulate upgrading of corrals and barns as well as grazing practices.

If amendments are passed, cattle and horse owners would have to implement TRPA’s Best Management Practices to their barns and corrals by October 2001. Ranchers whose cattle graze on basin meadows would be required to come up with grazing management plans by 2002, in order to minimize the impact of the cattle.



Grazing is believed to have significant impact on the water quality of the streams running into Lake Tahoe, most significantly from additional sediment runoff but also from pathogens from manure.

For years, the bistate agency has had several documents outlining direction regarding grazing and livestock, and the latest amendments to the various ordinances will make all the requirements comply with one another.



TRPA staff recommendation comes after several meetings of a Grazing Advisory Committee in 1997 and 1998.

“It’s time to move on, get it done and help the people to do the work,” said Joe Pepi, TRPA planner.

The governing board looked at similar recommendations in October; however, several board members still had some questions they wanted answered.

Pepi said the latest recommendation answers those as much as possible.

TRPA governors were interested in how much it would cost ranches to come up with grazing management plans and what the implementation costs would be. Pepi said it is difficult to estimate because each of the basin’s 11 major grazing pastures are different. Rough estimates for planning and implementing ranged from a few thousand dollars for some ranches up to possibly more than $100,000 for some ranches on large portions of U.S. Forest Service land.

However, the Forest Service is in the process of coming up with regulations similar to TRPA’s, Pepi said. Therefore, the driving force behind Forest Service improvements is not from TRPA.

Regarding residents who own a small amount of livestock, the cost of upgrading their livestock containment facilities – corrals or barns – depends largely upon the location and current condition. Livestock containment facilities in stream environment zones – or meadows – will need to be relocated, which could be costly depending on the situation.

Based on a 1997 revision to TRPA code, all property around Lake Tahoe, unless it hasn’t already been done, will need to be upgraded with BMPs eventually. Pepi said many home BMP upgrades will be more expensive than the livestock containment facility upgrades.

In the newest proposal, livestock owners will have the ability to implement alternative BMPs, as long as the improvements have the same, or better, impact as TRPA’s proposals.

TRPA governors also wanted to know how much damage – as specifically as possible – livestock causes to Lake Tahoe. Pepi said there is really know way to know exactly.

“Any degradation of Lake Tahoe is unacceptable,” Pepi said. “That’s the standard we’ve set.”

Low-interest loans are available through the Bank of America for any BMP upgrade, and Pepi said the livestock-related improvements are no exception. Grants from the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board have helped pay for upgrades to part of the Barton Meadows grazing area, and Pepi said funding assistance may be available for other ranch owners.

“The potential is there,” he said. “We don’t control the money, but we would certainly try to work with people to make that possible.”

Pepi said water quality improvements resulting from the ordinance will take several years but the ordinance likely would make a major difference.

“I think it will show to be significant,” he said. “The vegetation should be able to grow and stabilize and protect the banks, but it will take time.”

What: Regular meeting of the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

Where: Horizon Casino Resort, Stateline

When: Dec. 16, 9:30 a.m.

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