TRPA My Turn: How we’re restoring Tahoe while creating sustainable communities
LAKE TAHOE – As the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency runs full-steam ahead to complete the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan Update by the end of 2012, I want to be sure the community is clear on our goal – restoring and protecting Lake Tahoe’s water quality while creating sustainable communities.Tahoe’s communities are in trouble, and people who live and work here need new options. Overwhelmingly TRPA heard during the place-based visioning process that protecting the lake and making our communities walkable, safe, and sustainable were paramount. We’re implementing this vision with the Regional Plan Update, which is the blueprint for the Tahoe Basin’s sustainable future. The master plan will help guide how communities evolve, how ecosystems function, whether the transportation network is efficient and effective, and whether the Basin at large is restored, more pristine, and sustainable.
Aspects of the current Regional Plan that are working well will continue to do so with little to no change:• The region’s growth control system, which manages the amount of new development;• Our environmental monitoring programs, where science informs planning;• The Environmental Improvement Program (EIP) that restores our ecosystem with water quality, forest management, and other capital projects to benefit Lake Tahoe. For several decades, TRPA has brought together the public and private sectors to work together to protect Lake Tahoe. The unprecedented EIP partnership among federal, state and local governments, along with the private sector and the Washoe Tribe – a total of 50 organizations – collaborate to implement environmental gain in the Tahoe Basin. With nearly 400 projects completed since 1997, the EIP partners together are undoing environmental damage caused by past unplanned and harmful development, and the rapid decline in lake clarity has slowed.The EIP was visible on the South Shore this summer in Caltrans’ $40 million Highway 50 Trout Creek to Ski Run Improvement Project. The benefits outweigh this season’s inconvenience while waiting in traffic with the road under construction: the highway will have new bike lanes, sidewalks, a smooth road surface, and water quality measures to filter pollutant runoff.Another key South Shore EIP project is in Tahoe Keys: Cove East. Located at the mouth of the Upper Truckee River is a 23-acre site that was historically part of the largest marsh in the Tahoe Basin, but it was filled to allow for the Tahoe Keys neighborhood. The state of California purchased the property, removed over 82,000 cubic yards of fill, and reconstructed a functioning wetland. The completed project acts as a natural filter removing nutrients and sediment that would otherwise be conveyed into Lake Tahoe. The restored wetland also provides important habitat for numerous wildlife species. Today, it is a place where people who wish to enjoy a beautiful interpretive trail can mingle easily with the natural environment of the marsh.These examples are the kind of EIP projects the regional plan already supports and will continue in the update because capital investment to put environmental gain on the ground is the only way we can restore this spectacular environment. In the Regional Plan Update, we will focus especially on achieving the “Clarity Challenge” of 80 feet of lake transparency as the Total Maximum Daily Load calls for us to do by around 2025.
With most of the core elements of the Plan remaining in place, what will change? We’ve heard your suggestions and criticisms. The update is expected to streamline the permitting process, provide incentives for redeveloping or improving tired, rundown properties, and integrate sustainable land use and transportation systems. We’re proposing a different role for TRPA, one where the agency responds only to truly regional issues and leaves zoning and most parcel-specific permit decisions to local governments, consistent with regional environmental standards and safeguards established by TRPA. This shift would simplify permitting and in so doing encourage more public-private partnerships, which are viewed by many as the key to continuing the commitment to environmental restoration at Lake Tahoe.The success of the current Regional Plan was in stopping rampant, unplanned growth in the Tahoe Basin and stopping the nose dive of decline in lake clarity. The success of the 2012 Regional Plan Update will be in securing the opportunity to spur sustainable redevelopment and other restoration projects needed to create environmental, as well as community and economic benefits throughout Lake Tahoe. Please participate in the update process and continue to let us know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.- Joanne S. Marchetta is the Executive Director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. For more information, visit http://www.trpa.org.
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