Tahoe bailout law draws fire from California Senate leader
February 17, 2012
A California Senate leader has expressed sharp displeasure with Nevada legislation threatening to pull out of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
The bill, by state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, threatens withdrawal from the Tahoe Regional Compact by 2015 unless California and the U.S. Congress agree to changes, including ending the requirement that projects and other big decisions be approved by a majority of members from both states.
When the legislation was approved in June, Lee told the Senate that he agreed with residents and business owners at the lake that the agency had gone far beyond its original purpose, interfering with even the smallest decisions such as paint colors and whether to rake up pine needles around a home.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Nevada lawmakers, California state Sen. Darrell Steinberg criticizes Nevada’s pullout legislation as unfortunate and provocative.
“The legislation … is both unnecessarily inflammatory and deeply counter-productive to the collegial relationship our two states have had on these matters,” Steinberg said in the letter, in which he also designates three of his California colleagues to work with the Nevadans on a resolution.
“It is both surprising and disappointing to see a national treasure as important as Lake Tahoe become a political hostage to the agenda of special interest groups who have little interest in the many values the region provides,” Steinberg wrote.
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He also points out that Nevada can’t just pull out of the Tahoe Compact.
“Despite the verbiage in the Nevada legislation, dissolution of the Tahoe Compact would require an act of the United States Congress and would have deeply disruptive effects on Lake Tahoe’s economy and environment,” it says.
Steinberg also argues that, because California owns two-thirds of the basin and is responsible for two-thirds of the TRPA budget, “it is important that this state, at a minimum, be seen as a co-equal partner – and not a subsidiary party – to any efforts to modify policies related to Lake Tahoe.”
Discussions have been ongoing between the two states on numerous issues at Tahoe. Steinberg noted that, adding that, “I trust they will be more constructive than the preceding legislative efforts have been.”
Changes in how TRPA has done business this past year, and approvals of projects such as the Homewood resort redevelopment, have met with encouraging support from some parties at the lake, although environmental groups have still pledged to fight that approval in court.
The letter says three California state senators will work with their Nevada counterparts to preserve Tahoe as a national treasure: Alan Lowenthal of the budget committee, Fran Pavley of the Natural Resources and Water Committee, and Ted Gaines, whose district includes the basin.