California Legislature introduces bill to Protect Lake Tahoe
Two California state senators have introduced a bill designed to protect Lake Tahoe in the event that Nevada drops out of the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact.
SB 630, the Tahoe Compact Restoration Act of 2013, would go into effect only if Nevada moves forward with its plan to leave the existing compact. In 2011, Nevada passed a law stating their intention to drop out of the compact, which has been in place since 1969.
If Nevada’s law does go into effect, it would effectively destroy the current governing authority, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. If this happens, SB 630 would revive the California Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which served the state for many years before the start of the two-state compact. This would allow California to regulate development and protect water quality in the region, according to the bill introduced by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, and Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
“California must have a plan in place to protect Lake Tahoe,” Pavley said. “Due to unilateral action taken by the state of Nevada, the governance structure that has served Lake Tahoe for over four decades is now in jeopardy. We have sought to partner with the state of Nevada on this issue, and still see that as the best way forward. However, if our neighbor goes forward with their plan to withdraw from the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact, we should revive the California Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in order to protect our state’s vital interests in this natural jewel of the Sierras.”
The bill adopted by Nevada, SB 271, requires the state to drop out of the Regional Compact by October 1, 2015, if the two states cannot agree on a regional plan. The Nevada Legislature could repeal SB 271 during 2013. If they do not, however, it would likely go into effect, because the Nevada Legislature meets only during odd-numbered years, and will not convene during 2014. Therefore, it is important for California to put a contingency plan into effect this year.
The split followed demands by the state of Nevada to change the voting structure of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Nevada has been pushing for the ability to increase development on the eastern shore of Tahoe. However, amending the voting structure of the Planning Agency would also require Congressional action, and could not be done simply via a two-state agreement. Two-thirds of the shoreline and the vast majority of the surface area of Lake Tahoe lie in California.
“We hope the two states can continue to work collaboratively,” said Darcie Goodman, Executive Director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “However, as the dissolution of the Compact appears to no longer be an idle threat, California must perform its due diligence in order to safeguard one of the State’s most valuable resources. If Nevada pulls out of the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact, it is imperative that California already have a California Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in place.”
After years of delay by the TRPA, the two states agreed to an updated regional plan for Lake Tahoe in December when the Regional Planning Agency adopted the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan Update and Regional Transportation Plan Update, called Mobility 2035, by a 12-1 vote, with one abstention. These plans accelerated ecological and water restoration efforts in the area, while aiding regional development by simplifying the permitting process for updating older buildings. The plan was endorsed by the U.S. Forest Service, which manages nearly 80 percent of the land in the Tahoe Basin.
On Feb. 11, the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento seeking to block to new regional plan. The lawsuit went forward despite a request from U.S. senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Californiam and Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who noted that it could make it more difficult for the two states to reach a resolution.