My Turn: Moving forward after the regional plan

Darcie Goodman-Collins
Special to the Sun

LAKE TAHOE – Growing up in Tahoe was idealistic. I spent my summer days on the lake and winter afternoons on the slopes, gazing at the cobalt blue water. As I grew older, I also grew to understand the responsibility we have to preserve this treasure.

Now, as the Executive Director of the League, I work every day to make sure that the lake I love is restored and the community I belong to is revitalized. This work is extremely challenging because so many different interest groups call the lake home.

In December, the TRPA Governing Board passed a new regional plan for Tahoe after almost a decade of heated discussion. The League was vigorously involved throughout the process, advocating for a plan that would protect the lake.

Why didn’t the League oppose the final plan?

The League supported finalizing the regional plan for three reasons. First, so that Lake Tahoe’s communities can move forward with certainty about the region’s environmental regulations.

Second, to help the effort to repeal a Nevada law, SB271, which threatens to eliminate the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. With SB271, we face the prospect of no lake-wide regulator and uncertain regulations. Because it’s unclear whether the provisions of SB271 will take effect, the law unfairly keeps Lake Tahoe’s communities wondering what, if any, rules to plan by. This could delay the regional plan’s positive impacts for the environment and economy. It’s important for Nevada’s leaders to take action now to repeal this law.

Third, although the League is a strong watchdog and we are proud of our legal victories that protect the lake, we also have a renewed commitment to collaboration that seeks to avoid lawsuits and helps our communities move forward. This summer, we participated in a bi-state working group to iron out issues with the plan and address some of our concerns. We were able to suggest meaningful improvements, including eliminating widespread development on most of our raw land and designated recreation areas, as well as limiting increases in density and height. Compromises were tough. The environmental community did not get everything it wanted, but the League believed that the alternative of uncertain regulation was worse. The plan is not perfect, but we are ready to move forward after almost a decade of uncertainty.

Now what?

The League will now be focusing on community involvement: bringing together the efforts of those who love the lake so that we can move forward and make progress. In 2012, we began developing a new volunteer program to control terrestrial and aquatic invasive species. We tripled our hands-on volunteer stewardship events.

We partnered with a citizen group to launch Pipe Keepers, a program to monitor water quality at drainage pipes leading into the lake. We increased our participation in technical working groups that include organizations focused on restoration. We also launched a series of social events called Step into Blue that engages Tahoe enthusiasts and increases awareness about the footprint we leave behind.

As for the Regional Plan, in 2013, we’ll be supporting Nevada environmental groups and community leaders in an effort to repeal SB271 during this legislative session. The law was intended as a catalyst for collaboration by some who supported it, and those same supporters no longer feel it’s necessary. We will also be working with local jurisdictions to ensure strong protections in the implementing phases of the new Regional Plan.

In 2012, we took a step back and examined what our membership and community want for the lake’s future: an invested community dedicated to environmental protection and vitality. As we step into 2013, collaboration and cooperation are vital to Keeping Tahoe Blue.

Darcie Goodman-Collins, PhD, is executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

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