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Washoe role on TRPA board called just

Patrick McCartney

The presidential appointee on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board said this week the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California should have a seat on the bistate regulatory board.

Peter Chase Neumann, who was appointed to the board by President Clinton in 1995, said the Washoe now have a greater stake in the Tahoe Basin because of an agreement that gives them control over 400 acres of the basin.

Clinton announced the agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and the Washoe at the Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum Aug. 27. The 30-year special-use permit re-establishes the Washoe Tribe in the Tahoe Basin, where their ancestors lived in summer camps for centuries and which they regard as their spiritual home.



“The tribe definitely needs representation,” said Neumann, a Reno attorney, who suggested the Washoe could have his place on the board. “Historically, they’ve had a role as stewards of the basin for a long time. They have a historic birthright and I feel they should have representation based on that reason.”

Neumann’s statement is almost certain to stir discussion on the board. On Thursday, board Chairman Drake Delanoy described the proposal as innovative.



“I think that it is a quite interesting idea,” Delanoy said. “If the Washoe Tribe is going to hold land, it might be helpful for them to express their thoughts on how things should be done in the basin.”

The biggest hitch with the proposal, both Neumann and Delanoy said, is that the position is the only non-voting seat on the governing board. Because of the frustration of not being able to affect votes, past presidential appointees have had a spotty attendance record.

The position has remained vacant for more than four years out of the last eight.

Neumann suggested that, if the Washoe are to participate on the TRPA board, the position should be given a vote. That would require legislation by both California and Nevada, and the approval of the U.S. Congress, said Rachelle Nicolle, a TRPA counsel.

Neumann said making the seat a voting position would give the Washoe more influence.

“It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if that position were converted to a voting position and given to the Washoe,” Neumann said. “Without a vote, I often sit there like a bump on a log. Occasionally I participate in the discussions, but as a practical matter, if you don’t have a vote, you don’t have much moral suasion.”

Delanoy said he could imagine an arrangement where the presidential appointee could have the power to resolve ties, much like the U.S. vice president casts a vote as the president of the Senate to break ties.

“It might be helpful to have a tie-breaking vote,” Delanoy said. “I’ve never seen a tie vote, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.”

Until 1983, the presidential appointee was most often the regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service, who would then delegate the position to the Tahoe Basin forester. The Forest Service now supervises 77 percent of the basin’s 206,000 acres.

In 1983, President Reagan broke with tradition, appointing Rex Hime of the California Business Properties Association.

Hime served on the board for six years, and attended frequently. He later served on the board as a voting member when he was appointed by California Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle, but was replaced this year, after Democrats regained control of the Assembly.


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