Shorezone battle goes to court 20 years after debate started |

Shorezone battle goes to court 20 years after debate started

Adam Jensen
Sun News Service

LAKE TAHOE BASIN “-After more than 20 years of debate, the battle over how Lake Tahoe’s near shore area should be developed may have only just begun.

On Dec. 19 the Tahoe Lakefront Owners’ Association filed suit in federal court challenging the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Shorezone regulations. The agency’s Governing Board passed the ordinances on Oct. 22.

The ordinances regulate development of the lake’s shore area and allow phased construction of 138 new piers at Lake Tahoe and an additional 1,862 buoys to be placed on the lake over the next 20 years.

In the complaint, the owners’ association alleges the TRPA violated its compact when the Governing Board passed the ordinances.

The regulations “do not respect the right of lakeshore land owners to enjoy the rights reserved to them under the Compact” and there is “no substantial evidence” the Shorezone ordinances will protect the lake in accordance with applicable laws, according to the complaint.

The suit requests an injunction against implementation of the Shorezone ordinances and requests the ordinances ” and the related environmental analyses ” be invalidated.

Last month, the League to Save Lake Tahoe and Sierra Club also requested an injunction in federal court over the Shorezone ordinances.

The conservation groups contend the Governing Board adopted the regulations without proper consideration of the environmental and public access impacts.

The groups contend the ordinances fail to mitigate the environmental impacts anticipated from the development allowed under the ordinances.

Similarities between the lakefront owners’ association and the conservation groups suits are noted in the owners’ association suit.

Despite the upcoming court battle, the TRPA is moving “full steam ahead” with implementation of a “blue boating” and buoy permitting program to mitigate the effects of new Shorezone development, said TRPA spokesman Dennis Oliver.

Oliver also defended the environmental analyses conducted by the agency.

“It took us 21 years to get to this,” Oliver said. “In the last 10 years we’ve conducted three full environmental reviews. If three environmental analyses conducted over 10 years isn’t enough, then I don’t know what is.”

The Shorezone ordinance represents an attempt to find the “middle ground” between competing interests at the lake, Oliver said.

The level of development proposed in the Shorezone ordinances is “moderate” and will help leverage public access improvements, Oliver added.

“Now we have two lawsuits and the lake itself is stuck in the middle,” Oliver said. “These lawsuits don’t benefit the lake.”

A hearing date is not set in either suit, Oliver said.