Agency to review environmental progress |

Agency to review environmental progress

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board will meet on the North Shore today for what some agency watchers say will be one of the more significant discussions of Lake Tahoe’s environmental health.

The one-day meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. at the North Tahoe Community Conference Center, 8318 North Lake Blvd.

Among a host of reports, presentations and consent items, the governing board will discuss the bistate agency’s memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Forest Service, water-quality mitigation fees and initiate the environmental analysis of the agency’s 20-year regional plan.

But the agenda item that may attract the most interest is a public hearing and resolution regarding the 2006 Threshold Evaluation Report.

“What happens with these thresholds is going to control or affect growth for the next 10 or 20 years,” said Ron Grassi, a member of the North Tahoe Citizen Action Alliance. “This particular concept is easily on par with, say, the Shorezone project and certainly other major proposals that the TRPA comes up with.”

The Thresholds Evaluation Report item follows a previous board discussion in the spring, said Julie Regan, the agency’s chief of communications.

The agency has nine designated thresholds, or standards, that measure environmental progress and set the scale for development. They include air quality, water quality, soil conservation and vegetation compliance among other categories.

“Our whole mission is to basically achieve these standards in the whole basin,” Regan said. And every five years, the planning agency must report on their progress toward achieving those goals.

In meetings last spring, the agency received technical input and comment from members of the science community on the thresholds report, Regan said, with the water-clarity analysis bearing the brunt of the criticism.

Though the agency believed water clarity was on a positive trend, scientific data and reports indicated otherwise, Regan said. The agency has since changed its perception of the clarity threshold, acknowledging that efforts so far have not curbed the declining visibility of Lake Tahoe’s waters.

“[Reports and comments] really convinced the TRPA that we had not turned the corner on the decline of clarity,” Regan said. “Now, when you throw in climate change and temperature change of the lake, there are even more challenges to address.”

Regan said the agency has since incorporated comments and changes to its Threshold Evaluation Report, which will be considered with the agency’s regional plan update. Staff requested the board adopt the resolution issuing the threshold report.

“I do think it’s real important for everybody to understand what these thresholds are because they’re dealing directly with our air quality and water quality,” said President Jerry Wotel of the North Tahoe Citizen Action Alliance.

Public hearings will also be held today to discuss an increase in water-quality fees charged to compensate for excess land coverage and new construction. Money raised by the fees purchase sensitive lots in the basin. The proposed increase would adjust the fees to current construction costs, Regan said.

A scoping hearing will initiate the beginning of the environmental analysis for the agency’s developing 20-year regional plan.

“This is where we will be folding in all the public input that we heard in all the place-based pathways public workshops,” Regan said. The board will add to the input already received from the public before the agency starts to analyze the plan’s environmental impacts.

Scheduled as an administrative matter, the board will also discuss revising permit authority for the U.S. Forest Service to streamline and increase the efficiency of forest fuels management, Regan said.

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