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Planning agency reviews goals, policies

Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun file photoThe Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has changed the trend of Lake Tahoe's clarity from positive to negative in the 2006 Threshold Evaluation Report.
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After reviewing five years of environmental effort Wednesday, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board realized how much work remains to achieve long-term environmental goals.

At its monthly meeting in Kings Beach, the board approved the 2006 Threshold Evaluation Report, but not without critiquing policies and management practices that have at times stymied such environmental goals as increasing water and air quality.

While the report states that 20 environmental indicators are improving, only one out of four of the agency’s environmental goals ” or “thresholds” ” has been met, and 16 are either static or declining.



“That would lead me to believe that we aren’t on the right track,” board member Norma Santiago said. “We’re missing the boat somewhere.”

One problem, agency officials say, is that some agency ordinances need revision to spur environmental improvement.



“We’ve got a code of ordinances that was supposed to help us meet our thresholds. But currently, our actions seem to just stop negative effects and are not geared toward providing benefits,” said Community Liaison Jeff Cowen. “That’s where we want to head, we want to head toward providing benefits.”

One of the most noteworthy measures of Tahoe’s health ” the lake’s water clarity ” was switched from a positive to a negative trend following criticism from the science community.

Governing board Member Bruce Kranz voted against the evaluation report because many questions still remain about the results, he said.

Board Members Jim Galloway and Mike Weber approved the report, but noted their disapproval of certain indicators for scenic quality, among other standards.

The Threshold Evaluation Report, approved by a 10-3 vote, takes a backwards look at progress made thus far, said agency Chief of Communications Julie Regan.

Concerns voiced by governing board members Wednesday over threshold attainment looked forward to needed policy changes and revisions.

“We’re going through a great deal of change as the TRPA,” Regan said. “And the real exciting thing about the changes is, we have more scientific information available [now] than ever before.”

Board Member Mara Bresnick said this five-year threshold evaluation was more complicated than previous reviews because of its context within the agency’s 20-year regional plan update, which will improve the agency’s code of ordinances and threshold standards.

“These thresholds may not be attainable,” said governing board Member Shelly Aldean. “Our expectations need to be realistic.”

Later in the meeting, the board authorized an environmental analysis of an update to the threshold standards and 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 before the meeting.

A draft environmental impact statement is expected to be released spring of 2008, with officials hoping to adopt a final statement the following October.

Prior to discussing thresholds, consultant Jeremy Sokulsky presented a proposed Lake Tahoe Management System that is designed to improve policy efficiency and transparency.

“To make sure the incentives you put on the street are going to give you the action you actually want,” Sokulsky explained.

As part of the Threshold Evaluation Report, the planning agency staff recommended several policy changes intended to promote environmental progress.

“These [recommendations] are the ones that are ready to go now,” said Wildlife Program Manager Ted Thayer “The remainder … some of them are not ready to go.”

The recommendations included revising the pelagic lake clarity standards that measure carbon productivity, updating the sensitive plants list, merging goshawk disturbance zones and adopting California standards for air and noise quality basin-wide.

Air Quality and Noise Program Manager Charles Emmett said the state of Nevada has some apprehension about the agency adopting California’s air and noise regulations, in response to concerns voiced by Vice Chair Allen Biagi.

“The idea to move forward on this would be to have one standard” lakewide, Emmett said.


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