Two UNR research facilities may be too much for TRPA |

Two UNR research facilities may be too much for TRPA

Afraid it may clutter up the collaboration process, officials from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency are concerned with the University of Nevada, Reno’s recent indications it may conduct research both in Round Hill and at the historic Thunderbird Lodge.

“It’s not clear where they want to put their research facility at this point,” said Jim Baetge, executive director of TRPA. “We’d like to get that cleared up.”

As recently as three years ago, TRPA and other agencies had wanted to build one facility for all of Tahoe’s research needs. However, the University of California, Davis proceeded in raising money for renovating its current facility in Tahoe City, an old fish hatchery.

The plan then shifted, and officials wanted two research centers – one in each state.

UNR proceeded in acquiring use of East Shore’s Thunderbird Lodge, also known as the Whittell estate. The plan was to build a new building on the property and use the mansion’s boathouse, which would provide important lake access the university currently lacks.

The deal making UNR’s presence there is near conclusion, and UNR plans to use the existing building.

However, UNR announced in August that it would be joining TRPA, the Desert Research Institute, Nevada Division of State Lands and potentially the U.S. Forest Service in trying to build a 35,000-square-foot research center in Round Hill.

Baetge said he had thought UNR’s long-term research plans for Whittell were abandoned. An Aug. 27 guest editorial in the Tahoe Daily Tribune from UNR’s vice president for research explained there would be “permanent” research at both.

Baetge was confused. While Tahoe officials want to coordinate research efforts, Baetge said he is afraid having several research centers would do the opposite.

Greg Bortolin, spokesman for UNR, said his university has no intention to jeopardize plans for the Round Hill center. However, there currently is no estimate of when plans for the Round Hill facility could change from being a vision to a reality.

“The University of Nevada, Reno will not do anything to hurt the efforts of building a full-blown research center at Round Hill,” he said. “In good faith, we abandoned any plans of building a research center at (the Whittell) site. If the funding happens, our research efforts will be based in Round Hill. But in the meantime, we are going to conduct research at Whittell. Whittell will provide us with access to the lake for a variety of projects we are working on.”

TRPA’s governing board likely will be briefed on the issue in October, Baetge said.

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