When will shorezone plan be released? Some want it postponed to next summer
The release of a new shorezone plan for the basin, already postponed twice, may now be pushed back again until next summer – if some local environmental groups and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board members have their way.
Released last summer, Alternative 6 – a version of the shorezone plan that would regulate, among other things, the building of public and private piers, institute a boat ban on Emerald Bay and a buoy removal program – received public outcry.
TRPA staff went back to the drawing board and released Alternative 6A in May.
While not codified into ordinances, the working plan called for approving some 230 new piers on Lake Tahoe and not allowing the grandfathering of unpermitted buoys.
Once again, some environmental groups and governing board members and members of the public raised red flags.
The release of the final plan and its ordinances – set for this summer so the maximum number of residents and visitors could view and comment – was once more delayed.
Governing board member Coe Swobe, who, with Jerry Waldie, proposed the plan’s release be early summer to allow for a 60-day review, expressed concern Thursday that the board saw nothing from staff during the summer months.
“I will ask the board to delay the hearing until next summer,” Swobe said. “I think we should actually slow the bill down so that the using public knows what’s in it.
“During this time we’ve carved out the public from the process in my opinion, so we should spend some time educating the public, we’ve had too much secrecy.”
Regardless of its release date, it’s clear the TRPA is banking on this shorezone plan, the seventh in two years.
“We plan to put out the regulations based on what we’ve given you today, unless we get another direction from you,” said TRPA lead lawyer Joanne Marchetta in May.
The TRPA has not had a working shorezone document since 1987 and it has been one of executive director John Singlaub’s chief goals to get a working and “legally defensible” plan in place.
“There’s a reason we haven’t had a document on this for 20 years,” TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said. “For that we have to make sure it’s absolutely complete and thorough as possible.”
Some environmentalists notioned that a summer 2007 release may give the agency the time it needs to elicit more public feedback, get the document “air-tight” and come out congruous with the Pathway 2007 20-year plan with the basin.
“At this point a delay to get it right and to make sure the lake’s use is for the people may be an option,” said Sierra Club chair Michael Donahoe said.
Others felt extra time could be used for more effective agency outreach.
“It makes a lot of sense (to push back until next summer),” said Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “The plan clearly needs more work. It would be fair to the public to give more time for input and hold hearings at a time that works for more people.”
But TRPA staff was quick to caution that Singlaub does not want Shorezone and Pathway 2007 released together.
“It is John’s philosophy and position to have shorezone on a separate track,” Regan said. “The reason (shorezone) was not included on the last regional plan because it was so controversial.
“We have held from the beginning that it makes better sense to have two different tracks in place to ensure optimal outcome – we don’t want to wait for another 20 years to have a plan in place. We want to learn from the past.”
The current plan has come under fire by agencies outside the basin.
A May letter from the EPA’s Western offices criticizes the TRPA’s environmental review, its proposals to allow more piers and buoys on Lake Tahoe, and its delay of a boat sticker program to regulate motorized watercraft in the latest shorezone plan. It said the overall package will result in significant increases in air and water pollution.
Others, like TRPA board member Jerry Waldie, are simply curious about what has caused the delay.
“I’m disappointed that (the shorezone plan) did not come out this summer,” Waldie said. “That raises a question to me as to why. I’m concerned.”
TRPA spokeswoman Regan said she, too, wished the document had been released this summer, but said the reasons behind its delay are legitimate.
“We’d hoped to have the document out this summer, to time with people here this summer season,” she said. “At the end of the day, we have to make sure the document is complete.”
Since releasing Alternative 6 in summer 2005, TRPA dropped its suggestion to limit motorboat traffic in Emerald Bay on weekends and a requirement to remove buoys each winter from Lake Tahoe. It lowered buoy permitting fees from $5,000 to $500.
What has stayed is the number of new piers, the number of new buoys, 1,862, the cost to permit a pier, $100,000, a boat sticker program, and an item banning further development in a large portion of Tahoe’s publicly owned lakeshore.
“We did have a public hearing in our office last summer and we have received hundreds and hundreds of comments already,” Regan said noting numerous workshops including outreach to public service organizations like local Kiwanians and Rotarians and open forums like ‘Java with John’ has brought information to the fore. “Ultimately, the board will make those final decisions about when the plan is released
The next TRPA meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 27 at the North Tahoe Conference Center in Kings Beach.
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When the Judicial & Law Enforcement Center was built 40 years ago, there were only 19,400 people living in Douglas County.