Water quality key to marina expansion plans | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Water quality key to marina expansion plans

After years of work and nearly $500,000, the Tahoe Keys Marina Master Plan is still mired in controversy.

Keeping with the long history of disagreement between League to Save Lake Tahoe environmental concerns and the marina owners’ economic desire to expand, the master plan’s finality is up for interpretation.

The plan calls for 150 new boat slips, 120 more parking spaces and nearly 6,000 square feet of additional commercial area and indoor boat storage.

The marina master plan must be approved by the city of South Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency before project permits can be obtained. Both agency’s planning commission will review the plan Wednesday. If approved, it will go to the TRPA Governing Board and City Council this month.

Keys Marina co-owner Richard Horton said he’s optimistic the plan will be approved by the agencies and hopes to start building boat slips next year.

However, League spokesman Dave Roberts said he was concerned with how TRPA is approaching the master plan and Environmental Impact Study process.

TRPA is presenting the master plan as complete, although a baseline for water quality has not been established. Roberts said water quality needs to be assessed to estimate the impacts of expansion.

TRPA, the League and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board are worried additional boats will contribute to higher levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, in the already troubled lake. PAHs, a by-product of unburned boat fuel, are considered harmful to fish and kill the zooplankton at the base of Lake Tahoe’s food chain.

Colleen Shade, TRPA land-use team leader, said the water board is requiring the marina to collect monthly and holiday water quality samples until January. The samples will serve as a base to compare water quality as the marina begins to implement its master plan.

Once the base study is complete, Shade said, the marina will be able to construct 50 boat slips a year as long as Lahontan’s water quality standards are met.

Roberts said he’s glad TRPA and Lahontan are requiring the assessment but believes a water quality base should be established before the master plan is approved. After a boating season’s worth of samples is collected, he said, TRPA will be better prepared to assess the environmental impacts.

“They’re putting the cart before the horse. It’s inappropriate to call a document final until you have the building blocks for environmental analysis,” Roberts said. “We’re just very uncomfortable with the approval of a final master plan EIS that’s attempting to establish a baseline as a mitigating measure. We’re concerned this will set a precedent for future marina master plan EIS documents.”

Marina co-owner Ray Carreau said further delays in the master plan’s approval would be disheartening after recent setbacks.

Carreau and Horton paid a $60,000 fine and removed 70 unauthorized boat slips as part of an April settlement agreement with TRPA.

Although he did not state a total cost, Horton said the removal project took several hours of work and resulted in hefty revenue losses. Keys Marina slips rent for between $16 and $20 per foot per month, depending on how long the slips are rented.

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