TRPA wants to refine its mission and image |

TRPA wants to refine its mission and image

Matthew Renda

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A local oversight agency vowed to take a new direction while seeking to enhance its public image.

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Executive Director Joanne Marchetta told assorted governing board members the agency must distance itself from its former anti-development position and instead forge partnerships in the private sector with the overarching aim to protect the lake and it’s surrounding environment.

“We can no longer be the culture of no, we have to be the culture of ‘yes and here’s how’,” she said.

Marchetta explained part of the original rationale for the formation of TRPA was to curtail growth and development in the basin, which was rampant during California’s Age of Engineering in the 1970’s (the classic example includes the plan to build a bridge over the mouth of Emerald Bay, which was stopped once the TRPA assumed oversight powers).

TRPA must reverse that direction and the agency must provide incentives to business owners to redevelop environmentally insensitive areas to improve the economic and ecological landscape, Marchetta said.

“At one time business interests fought us tooth and nail, but now business leaders understand the need for (the agency’s) environmental standards,” Marchetta said. “There is an understanding that keeping the environment healthy positively affects the bottom line.”

Cooperating with the private sector, requires the agency to take a hard look at streamlining the application process, increasing operational efficiency, and increasing communication with residents in the basin, Marchetta said. It also requires partnering with other environmental oversight and land management groups like the U.S. Forest Service, which owns and maintains the majority of land in the basin.

The appearance of Asian Clams at the mouth of Emerald Bay created a minor controversy during the meeting.

Ted Thayer, manager of the Aquatic Invasive Species program for TRPA, said installing bottom barriers designed to kill Asian clams at the mouth of Emerald Bay would be difficult due to the number of big boats that navigate through the shallow waters, kicking up sand on the bottom of the lake.

Steven Merrill, Norma Santiago and Jennifer Montgomery, all members of the governing board, urged a temporary moratorium on boating in Emerald Bay until the problem can be addressed.

“We need to take the action now,” Santiago said.

Marchetta said the closure of Emerald Bay, one of the most popular locations on the lake for boaters, would result in heavy criticism of the agency and would negatively impact local boating oriented businesses.

Thayer said his department is currently in contact with boating enterprises that send ships to Emerald Bay and is working to coordinate a program that addresses the incursion of clams while reducing impacts to business and recreation.

Marchetta said the agency is targeting the installation of bottom barriers for this fall, after this summer’s boating season, but would consider taking action sooner.

Executive Director of the Tahoe Science Consortium Zach Hymanson presented the governing board with an overview of science in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The TSC is an umbrella organization that coordinates the study efforts of five organizations including the Desert Research Institute, University of California, Davis, University of Nevada, Reno, U.S. Geological Survey, and the USFS Pacific Southwest Research Station.

Hymanson said the scientific community is trying to identify more accurate environmental modeling for the basin, develop a comprehensive science program and locate funding while tightening the loop between data collection and policy making.

Hymanson also urged board members and staff to look at science from a program rather than a project scale.

For example, rather than assess whether an isolated Best Management Practice is working, it is better to analyze whether the erosion control measures are working as a whole, Hymanson said.

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