AP News

New development plan approved for Tahoe Basin


CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Lake Tahoe regulators have approved a sweeping plan a decade in the making that will govern development around the scenic Sierra lake straddling the Nevada-California line and give more control to local governments.

While business interests hail the new regional plan as long overdue, some environmental advocates claim it mangles environmental protections by allowing denser development.

Others see it as a necessary compromise.

"While there's a lot of things I think cold have been done for environmental protection, it was important to come to an agreement," Kyle Davis, policy director at the Nevada Conservation League, said Thursday.

"Basically the plan is absolutely a compromise."

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board approved the plan Wednesday.

Joanne Marchetta, TRPA executive director, described it as the "next environmental leap forward" for Lake Tahoe.

The regional plan hasn't been updated since the first one was adopted in 1987.

While the past decades have focused on curbing residential growth to prevent degradation of Tahoe's cobalt waters, Marchetta said the goal going forward is to target redevelopment of older properties. She told a Nevada legislative committee last year that using more environmentally friendly building practices can reduce runoff that deposits silt into Tahoe's waters and at the same time promotes economic renewal.

"Most visitors are stunned by the beauty of Lake Tahoe but disappointed by our aging town centers and lack of connectivity in transportation and trails," Marchetta said in a statement after the new regional plan was approved. "To further restoration efforts, we need to open opportunities for property owners to invest in measures that reduce pollution and help restore the lake's world-famous clarity."

But Laurel Ames with the Tahoe Area Sierra Club Group slammed the updated plan and had harsh criticism for giving six local governments within the Basin more control over development.

Ames said the TRPA "has mangled current planning protections, turned them on their head and abandoned the lake."

"There is no evidence over the past 40 years that local agencies have the motivation, interest or ability to protect Lake Tahoe."

Clashes between Nevada and California over controlling development in the Tahoe Basin prompted Nevada lawmakers last year to approve a bill, SB271. It paved the way for Nevada to pull out of the a 43-year-old bistate compact in 2015 unless changes were made over how development projects are approved and the regional plan was updated to give more consideration to economic factors.

Nevada residents described as onerous a regulatory system that required permits for such things as cutting up a fallen tree on their property or paving a driveway, and Republican legislators categorized the TRPA as a "bloated bureaucracy" and "obstructionist organization."

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, who serves on the TRPA board and supported the secession bill, last week suggested he would support legislation to rescind the law next year, provided the updated regional plan was adopted and not challenged in court.

Leo Drozdoff, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, also signaled a softening stance.

"We know this is just a starting point, but Nevada stands ready to continue the work we have done to create a strong and vibrant bistate framework," Drozdoff said in a statement. "You can rely on us to be here in the long term as a resource as we continue to find common ground."

Todd Ferrara, deputy secretary for the California Natural Resources Agency, echoed those sentiments.

"It hasn't been easy. There has been compromise as well as consensus, but many things that are hard or challenging bear fruit," Ferrara said, calling the new agreement an "important milestone for Lake Tahoe."


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