My Turn: Is it too late to bring Tahoe back?
August 15, 2008
Almost daily the actions and pronouncements of Tahoe’s so-called stewards activate my feelings of foreboding about the survival of both the environmental quality of Lake Tahoe and the sustainability of the quality of life for its residents.
Let us face it: It is the elected and appointed bureaucrats and politicians and their “in-bed-with” developers and businesses who ultimately control our future and that of the Basin. Although the influence of the public is gradually increasing, the “establishment” is still in control.
Unfortunately, it their determination to increase all aspects of tourism, increase significantly the numbers of second-home owners and part-time residents, and to adopt and promote the concept that restoration, reclamation and repair of ecological and environmental damage to the lake and Basin is the preferred solution to an environmentally overloaded Basin.
Admittedly, the Lake Tahoe Basin has been an economically and socially depressed area for many years, and the solving of which has been shoved under the rug by those responsible. Instead, they have irresponsibly elected to rely almost entirely on tourists and other visitors to provide a solution, which, incidentally, has backfired in a number of ways.
With the tourism and construction industries and their seasonal demands for labor and services (and their business policies of minimum wages, part-time employment and negligible fringe benefits) the economic and social structure of Basin communities is and has been a burden for residents, many small businesses and various social services.
The emphasis on second-home ownership significantly compounds the problems outlined above. All in all, tourism and construction have done little to help the local economic, social and environmental problems, benefiting a few locals and others located far from Tahoe.
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Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that some, if not all, of these problems may even reach disastrous levels in the future.
In my opinion, several priority and philosophical changes must be made in the objectives of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and other responsible agencies before it is too late. These changes include:
– TRPA and other agencies must accept that their primary and basic responsibility is the sustainability and maintenance of the quality of Lake Tahoe and its environs regardless of the so-called demands for the growth in tourism and visitors,
– TRPA and other agencies must recognize that the quality of life associated with semi-rural mountain communities is a historical and social asset and it must be preserved,
– TRPA and other agencies must accept that the inherent carrying capacity of the lake and Basin, which is determined primarily by the numbers of people living in and using the region, is not a negotiable factor if the region is to survive without permanent and perhaps catastrophic damage,
– TRPA and other agencies must abandon their beliefs (largely unproven to date) that any ecological and environmental damage that has occurred (or will occur) can be repaired (or mitigated) by reclamation and other remedial activities, and
– TRPA and other agencies must accept and promote the concept that the key to social and economic stability (which is compatible with a sustainable tourism industry) is a significant increase in full-time, year-around employees in locally owned and managed businesses that have little, if any, dependence on the tourism and construction industries.
Frankly, as an 18-year resident and a former member of the Pathway 2007 Forum, the 2007 Socio-Economic Technical Working Group, and the Placer County North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council, I am not optimistic about any of the above suggestions being adopted by any of our local “tunnel-visioned” agencies.
The Lake Tahoe Basin is too ripe a commercial “plum” to be bypassed by the nationally owned recreation industries, developers, real state conglomerates, etc. As growth continues, promoted by TRPA and other agencies, other serious problems such as zebra mussel contamination, global warming, the lack of economic diversification, the ever-increasing pollution of the lake, the impacts of temporary workers from all over the world, etc. are not given any significant priority by TRPA, the state and local governments and other agencies.
To answer my question in the heading, yes, I am afraid it is too late.