Nearly half a century ago, California, Nevada and Congress entered into a formal agreement designed to control development to protect Lake Tahoe.
In 1980, Congress, along with the states of California and Nevada, specifically entrusted a regional body – the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) – to oversee all environmental protection and land use at Tahoe to ensure that local governments would not allow rampant development.
Last December TRPA approved an innocuously-named “Regional Plan Update” that upended over three decades of carefully restrained growth rates and strong environmental protections. That approach will be replaced with a radical increase in urban development.
The plan allows TRPA to cede its authority for planning and permitting to the same local governments that failed to protect Tahoe in the past.
The plan will seriously reduce protections for Lake Tahoe by directly undermining the original goals of the agreement that was designed to save Lake Tahoe’s famous clarity and scenic beauty – the shoreline, mountains and forest that make the lake a national treasure.
The plan will bring radical change to Tahoe’s look and feel, with new tall buildings, intense development and increased traffic and congestion around the lake.
With this plan, TRPA abandons its primary mission, which is protecting Lake Tahoe.
It fails to make a credible case that the environmental protections required by the agreement can be achieved by increasing development.
While TRPA ceded much of its authority and retained only a limited oversight status, it also created “an admittedly difficult” appeal process (according to TRPA’s own General Counsel) that will greatly impede the ability of citizens to object to poor planning decisions that could be made by local governments.
The plan allows more pavement and taller buildings, which will result in more traffic, smog, and runoff, thus removing the firewall of environmental protection that the standards were intended to provide.
Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore, represented by lawyers from Earthjustice, are legally challenging the new plan and opposing California Senate Bill 630, which would formalize TRPA’s new approach of placing economic development on an equal footing with environmental protection, because we are determined to protect Lake Tahoe.
The Coalition to Protect Lake Tahoe cannot stand by idly and allow Tahoe, once the bluest lake in America, to become increasingly clouded by pollution, and its scenic values obstructed by more and more four to six-story buildings in dense new urban centers and “resort recreation” areas.