Commissioners want more on Dreyfus |

Commissioners want more on Dreyfus

by Sheila Gardner

County commissioners grudgingly agreed Thursday to support federal legislation that could pump $300 million into environmental preservation at Lake Tahoe. The board reiterated ongoing concern over bureaucratic strings that might be attached to the so-called “Feinstein bill.”

The approval, delayed for more than a month, comes with a few strings of its own.

The board agreed to back the legislation, sponsored by California and Nevada senators, after securing a promise from U.S. Forest Service supervisor Juan Palma that he would try to set up a meeting with his boss to discuss the $38 million Dreyfus estate land exchange.

Palma, who leaves in August for a promotion to a Bureau of Land Management supervisory spot in Oregon, assured commissioners he would contact acting regional forester Brad Powell to meet with them and other principals in the land exchange, the most expensive in Forest Service history.

At issue is whether the Forest Service intends to tear down the 15-year-old, $3 million Dreyfus mansion which fronts Lake Tahoe at Zephyr Cove. The residence was purchased by the Minden-based Park Cattle Co. for use as a conference center.

After the transaction between Park and the seller – the Olympic Group of Arizona – the Forest Service refused to give Park a special use permit to operate the business. Park representatives said they have been advised that the Forest Service intends to tear the buildings down because the Park proposal is not in the best interest of the public.

Commissioners are enlisting the support of Nevada’s congressional delegation to stall or stop any building demolition.

n No deal. “If this were to happen, I know that Douglas County would consider land exchanges in Douglas County dead because it went so poorly. There would be no others,” Etchegoyhen said.

Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nevada, has been adamant that the buildings not be torn down. He said last week the suggestion is “sheer madness.”

Matt Mathes, USFS regional press officer, said Friday the agency and the Park Cattle Co. had agreed not to discuss negotiations.

“This is private property and we feel it’s best to discuss private property in private,” Mathes said. “We are going to uphold our end of the agreement and not discuss it publicly until we are finished. We don’t want to jeopardize the outcome.”

Mathes said the Forest Service would discuss the future of the Dreyfus estate with Nevada’s congressional delegation.

“We work with members of Congress every day on a wide variety of topics. We certainly want to discuss it with them. First, we would find out what congressmen want to do,” Mathes said. “Meanwhile, we will continue to meet with the Park Cattle Co. attorneys to see if some kind of agreement can be reached that we can all live with.”

Developments in the Dreyfus land exchange are being followed by the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., Mathes said.

Representatives of the Park Cattle Co. said they had been advised by the Forest Service two weeks ago that the buildings were coming down.

n Big fight. “I’d certainly like to see this resolved for all the people in the United States,” said Etchegoyhen. “If the Forest Service tears the buildings down, it’s going to be a contentious, national issue.”

Prior to the Dreyfus discussion, Palma answered several questions regarding the legislation proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would authorize $300 million in funds for Lake preservation projects over the next 10 years. Authorization doesn’t mean the money would be appropriated.

“We asked Juan to come back with answers and he did,” said Commissioner Don Miner. “It does more good than harm. I have been unable to unearth anymore than my latent suspicions.”

“I hope it brings money to Tahoe to improve the water clarity and not add another layer of bureaucracy,” said Commissioner Steve Weissinger. “I’d hate to come back and say, ‘I told you so.”

Commissioners passed a resolution of support 4-1 with Kelly Kite voting no.

The board authorized County Manager Dan Holler to send a letter seeking support for maintaining the Dreyfus estate buildings to Gov. Kenny Guinn, Sens. Bryan and Harry Reid, D-Nevada and Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nevada.

“It’s not in the best public interest to tear those buildings down,” said Commissioner Bernie Curtis. “We want to direct our congressional delegation to do what they can to attempt to preserve the buildings for the future of Douglas County.

The buildings include a caretaker’s house and a 12-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot mansion built in 1984 by mutual fund tycoon Jack Dreyfus.

Miner suggested inviting the congressional delegation and acting regional forester Brad Powell to the commission’s Aug. 19 meeting at Lake Tahoe.