Environmental groups weigh in on California bill

Eric Heinz

Several environmental groups have raised eyebrows at a California Senate Bill surrounding regulation at Lake Tahoe.

Now that Nevada is no longer withdrawing from the Tahoe Compact agreement, certain changes in the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Regional Plan Update made by California have drawn concern from some local environmental groups.

State Senate Bill 630, which has made its way to the California Assembly committees, would help solidify the agreements under the RPU, if the bill passes.

Group leaders said their backlash includes claims of opening the way for more development around the lake, not addressing turbidity issues and fine particles, and not enough additional environmental protection.

Earthjustice, Friends of Tahoe Vista, North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, Sierra Club and Sierra Club California are listed as opponents of the bill, according to a bill analysis from an assembly committee meeting on natural resources.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe is the lone supporter stated in the analysis.

In February, the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore groups sued the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency over the adoption of the most recent RPU. A federal judge has yet to issue a ruling on a request by the groups to stop implementation of the RPU.

Ann Nichols, executive director of the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, said her organization opposed the bill at the assembly committee meeting on Aug. 12.

“We don’t feel the RPU does not address the real problem of the storm water pipes that flow into the lake, and that’s the major problem with pollution,” Nichols said. “The RPU is increasing height density and coverage allowed to cure the problems of Lake Tahoe.”

Nichols said the main problem with the systems is that they don’t filter out enough of the finer particles that travel through the effluent lines into the lake.

On the other hand, League to Save Lake Tahoe executives said the bill would help the two states compromise over regulations around Lake Tahoe.

Darcie Goodman-Collins, executive director of the league, said opposing SB 630 would possibly be the catalyst of the dissolution of the bistate compact, which could split regulations among various governments.

“The league’s biggest position is uniform regulation is what’s best for the lake, because the lake itself knows no state line,” Goodman-Collins said, adding that Nevada’s movement to continue with the compact has shown good faith the state legislators are willing to compromise.

Groups like the Sierra Club, however, see the bill as what could potentially be another avenue to overdevelopment.

Laurel Ames, Tahoe Area Sierra Club president, said she also feels the changes to the RPU do not bode well environmentally.

“Our point is that they’ve already done the studies, they know there’s a problem, and you can see it in the shore zone and the question is how it affects the middle of the lake,” Ames said. “It’s fragile, and it’s important to be careful and thoughtful.

“This plan and this legislation don’t do that.”

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