Planning agency’s lakefront plan under scrutiny this month |

Planning agency’s lakefront plan under scrutiny this month

Kara Fox
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra SunThe public pier at Kings Beach is covered in snow after a recent storm. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency recently proposed rules on new piers on Lake Tahoe.

-Lakefront owners, environmental groups and boaters are waiting for Jan. 31 ” the date when the future of shoreline development at Lake Tahoe could be decided.

-The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board is scheduled to vote that day on a proposal that would allow 230 piers, 1,862 buoys, six public boat ramps and 235 public boat slips over the next 22 years as part of a shorezone plan to regulate development on the lakeshore.

-The proposed plan would also decrease boat speed in Emerald Bay to 7 mph, require biannual buoy and chain inspections, introduce a boat pollution reduction program, and change buoy permit fees to $500 for the first buoy and $1,000 for the second buoy. An informational public meeting is scheduled for today from 6 to 9 p.m. in the North Tahoe Community Conference Center, when the plan will be presented, public comment will be accepted and a question-and-answer period will be held.

“Our goal with the proposed program is to encourage as much preservation of the Lake Tahoe shoreline as possible,” said Julie Regan, TRPA’s spokesperson. “Our current rules aren’t scientifically supportable. We have to change.”

-Part of that change includes allowing new piers where they were prohibited over the past 20 years: in fish habitat. Scientific studies conducted by UC Davis between 1988 and 1995 showed that the two pier types in Lake Tahoe ” rock crib structures and open pile piers ” had a neutral effect on fish habitat. Two-thirds of the lake is considered to be fish habitat, said Regan.

-“We found that neither one of those structures negatively impacted the fish,” said Brant Allen, staff researcher for UC Davis. “We actually found that rock crib piers provide habitat for fish.”

-The proposal would allow 10 new private piers per year over 22 years. Another 10 public piers are also allowed in the plan and do not have restrictions on when they could be applied for. However, if the maximum number of private piers are not applied for within any given year they do not roll over into the next year, but are instead available for public pier projects.

-A $100,000 fee would also be required for each new private pier, which would go into the Lake Tahoe Public Access Fund to purchase land, construct public access facilities, and pay property owners to remove an unwanted pier.

-But not everyone is pleased with the bi-state agency’s preferred plan, known as “Alternative 6A.” That includes the League to Save Lake Tahoe, which believes the vote should be delayed until more mitigation measures are included in the proposal.-

“There needs to be defined, specific programs instituted to offset pollution impacts,” said Carl Young, the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s program coordinator. “The league does see some critical issues with this plan. We would like to see it fleshed out so people know what they are getting.”

The league’s major issue is with the proposed boat pollution reduction program, which does not include specific measures to curb pollution by boats in the lake.

Young cited TRPA’s own report that “boat use in the Lake Tahoe Basin could increase by 30 percent between 2004 and 2024, if a trend of 1.5 percent increase per year were to continue” as a reason to be concerned.

However, Regan said TRPA will provide more details at its public information meeting today in Kings Beach.

“We can’t mitigate impacts that don’t exist today,” Regan said. “The Blue Boating program is designed to mitigate potential impacts that could occur over the next 20 years, so naturally it would evolve as we monitor the lake and adapt to changing conditions.”

Jan Brisco, executive director of the Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association, said she is concerned about the time of year the plan was introduced and will be voted on, saying lakefront owners are typically not in Tahoe in the winter and may not have an opportunity to comment on the proposal.

“The bottom line is we are disappointed in the quality of the document. I don’t believe we are ready to go to a decision at the end of the month,” Brisco said. “It’s discriminatory against lakefront owners.”

Andrew Laughlin, owner of Tahoe City Kayak, is also disappointed in the plan, but takes a different perspective.

“I think that the shorezone plan is heavily skewed toward the small percentage of lake users, meaning lakefront homeowners with motor boats,” Laughlin said. “The addition of hundreds of new piers and buoys will increase pollution and decrease clarity in the lake. An increase in motorboat traffic makes it inhospitable to kayaks. I think the plan as it is currently written goes against the TRPA.”

Whatever the TRPA board decides at the end of the month will be implemented 60 days after the vote, if it is not litigated first. But TRPA staff believes their proposal is the best fit to answer everyone’s concerns while protecting Lake Tahoe.

“We feel Alternative 6A is the perfect balance. We have to get that middle ground in there,” said Jeff Cowen, TRPA’s community liaison. “Not everyone is going to be happy. We’re worried first about Lake Tahoe.”

– Property cannot have a deed restriction

– Structures cannot be located in stream mouth protection zones

– Parcels located in fish spawning habitat are eligible for a pier, but have to pay a $5,000 fisheries habitat mitigation fee

– Structures cannot be located within a quarter mile of public drinking water intakes

– Piers cannot be built in shorezone preservation areas

– Stranded parcels are not eligible for a new pier

– Piers: 220 private, 10 public

– Buoys: 1,686 private, 176 public

– Boat ramps: no new private, six public

– Boat slips: no new private, 235 public

– Fences: no new fences below the high water line

TRPA Shorezone Public Meeting

North Tahoe Community Conference Center

Kings Beach

Tuesday, Jan. 9

6 – 9 p.m.

For more information, call Angela Moniot at (775) 588-4547 x235 or visit

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.