Feds not happy with TRPA’s shorezone rules | SierraSun.com

Feds not happy with TRPA’s shorezone rules

Amanda Fehd
Sun News Service

Dan Thrift/Sun News Service

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a scathing review of proposed rules to regulate piers, buoys and motorboats put forth by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

In a May letter signed by the top officials of the EPA’s Western offices, the agency criticizes the TRPA’s environmental review, its proposals to allow more piers and buoys on Lake Tahoe, and its delay of a boat sticker program to regulate motorized watercraft. It says the overall package will result in significant increases in air and water pollution.

The EPA letter also references the most recent document on the shorezone, which is not available to the public, the February 2006 Administrative Final Environmental Impact Statement. The EPA appears to be one of several groups and agencies that were allowed earlier this year to review this document.

“Several public agencies have been reviewing working drafts of the document this year and that is the reference in the first paragraph of EPA’s letter,” said TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan.

The Tahoe Lakefront Property Owners Association submitted an information request this summer that asks TRPA to disclose all documents related to the shorezone rules.

TRPA responded last month that everything is already available to the public and that it “cannot withhold what does not exist.”

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“The working, internal, administrative drafts of the EIS and Ordinances are further protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege,” said TRPA Joanne Marchetta in an e-mail last month.

The TRPA this month delayed the release of their long-awaited rules until September.

In its letter, EPA encourages the agency to postpone the rules and integrate them into the new regional plan update coming through the Pathway 2007 process.

“EPA believes the proposal poses significant water and air quality issues, and that the cited documents lack sufficient analyses or mitigation commitments to address those issues,” reads the letter, which is signed by Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA’s Region 9 water division, and Deborah Jordan, director of the region’s air division.

Regan said the agency has been working diligently for over a year to respond to the hundreds of comments they have received on their proposals.

“We were aware that much of the supporting documentation needed updating ” that’s why we’re taking the necessary time to be thorough and to ensure our analysis is sound going forward,” Regan wrote in an e-mail. “It’s important to keep in mind that we’re bringing closure to nearly 20 years of policy debate ” we want to be confident in our final document.”

The EPA’s letter echoes sentiments long expressed by conservation groups. The agency is concerned about a trend of increasing motorboat traffic on the lake and what effects that will have on pollution levels.

Allowing more marina slips, buoys and access ramps will likely increase the amount of boat pollution, yet none of the mitigation measures the TRPA is proposing are tried and proven, the letter argues.

“The documents do not quantify the effectiveness or adequacy of the potential mitigation measures,” it says.

The EPA says the final EIS differs significantly from Alternative 6 because it delays a boat sticker program that would charge motorized watercraft a yearly fee for access to Lake Tahoe.

Released last summer, Alternative 6 was met with public outcry over a proposed limited motorboat ban in Emerald Bay.