UC Davis works to remove conflict | TahoeDailyTribune.com

UC Davis works to remove conflict

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

UC Davis has decided to restructure a contract it has with an environmental consultant after critics said the planning process to build a research center near Lake Tahoe was not independent enough.

The comments came last week at a meeting of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board. UC Davis says it has been working closely with the TRPA through the planning process, but with the change their consultant will now take direction directly from the TRPA instead of the university.

“If anybody was concerned before, they should not be concerned now,” said Sid England, an environmental planner at UC Davis.

The Governing Board recommended the change after hearing from people such as Neil Eskind, an attorney at Tahoe City representing about 150 residents who don’t want the research center build on state parks’ land off Lake Forest Road near Tahoe City.

“We recommend that you hire an independent consultant,” Eskind said. “What you have are a number of people who are suggesting that all the alternative (sites) have not been evaluated.”

More than 20 sites have been looked at since early 2001. A list of requirements for the research center was drawn up by UC Davis and TRPA.

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Essential to any site chosen is that it be close enough to the shore to provide the research center the ability to draw water directly from Lake Tahoe.

Eventually the 20 properties were pared down to two, 5 acres of state parks’ land and a 5-acre campground not far from the state parks’ land.

The university identified the state parks’ land as a possible site after the League to Save Lake Tahoe said a campground site, also off Lake Forest Road, was next to a stream and the land was too sensitive to develop further.

If the center, estimated to cost $13.5 million, is constructed on the state parks land it would go in 275 yards from the lake’s high water line. UC Davis’ consultant is in the process of creating an in-depth environmental report about impacts the project would have at both sites. It is due sometime this spring.

England said UC Davis prefers the state parks’ site because the land is less sensitive than the campground, it’s not in a stream environment zone and because of its proximity to the lake.

Paul Dyer, owner of a Trading Center Post commercial complex in Tahoe City, attended last week’s meeting and offered the post as a possible home for the research center. The property would be considered along with other suggested sites, England said.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com