Truckee bearing down on tougher trash laws in wake of increased wildlife issues | SierraSun.com

Truckee bearing down on tougher trash laws in wake of increased wildlife issues

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

File photoThe bear population in Truckee and Tahoe has become more brazen over the years, and more and more bruins are entering residential neighborhoods in search of food.

TRUCKEE, Calif. – In response to increasing instances of bears and other wildlife gaining access to residents’ garbage, the town is enacting an amended trash ordinance that could require property owners to get an animal-resistant bin enclosure and pay as much as $1,000 for repeat violations.

On Nov. 27, Truckee Town Council approved an amended solid waste ordinance, which includes increasing fines, having an enclosure requirement and prohibiting the placement of trash out before 5 a.m. on garbage collection day(s). The new laws go into effect Dec. 27.

“The goal is really not to fine,” said Mayor Joan deRyk Jones. “The goal is to get the garbage cleaned up – but it gives us some teeth.”

This past spring and summer, the town received an increased number of complaints regarding tipped over garbage cans and trash in the roads, said Dan Olsen, Truckee’s animal services and code compliance manager.

In most cases, property owners came into compliance when contacted, but for those who didn’t, officials found the old ordinance was lacking in “substantial enforcement capability,” according to the town.

Truckee resident Emilie Kashtan, who said she has an ongoing issue with a neighbor regarding trash disposal, said she is “encouraged that the town is now identifying that they have an enforceable bear ordinance.”

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“It’s been a long time coming to have an ordinance in Truckee for bears, raccoons, dogs, crows and vermin that is enforceable when you have people not diligent with their garbage,” she said.

It’s also a safety issue, Kashtan said, considering unsecured trash attracts bears and other wildlife into residential areas.

According to the amended ordinance, upon the first verified trash complaint, a letter will be sent to the property owner notifying him or her of the violation and possible consequences of additional violations; also, an order to replace heavily damaged trash cans can be made at that time, Olsen said. The current ordinance gives no warning letter and fines violators $100.

On the second verified offense within a year period, a $235 fine will be issued, Olsen said, along with a potential order to replace a heavily damaged trash can. Currently, it is a $200 fine.

On the third offense in a year, a $1,000 fine will be issued, along with an order for property owners to install an animal-resistant garbage can enclosure – often referred to as a bear box – which costs on average $1,000. Olsen said if a bear box is installed within 30 days, the $1,000 fine could be waived. Currently, there is no requirement to install a bear box, and the fine is $500.

If a bear box already exists, then only a $1,000 fine will be issued, Olsen said.

Ann Bryant, executive director of the Homewood-based BEAR League, a nonprofit organization committed to keeping bears safe and wild in their natural habitat, emphasized the importance of Truckee recommending the use of only “approved” bear resistant garbage enclosures.

On its website, the BEAR League has a list of five approved bear resistant garbage enclosures: BearSaver, Baker Bin, Brown Bear, No Bear Can and BearGuard, most of which are sold throughout the North and South shores.

Bryant said the use of non-approved enclosures will only result in a loss of money for people and frustration, since the special bins won’t prevent bears and other wildlife from getting into their garbage.

Another concern of Bryant’s is enforcement.

“Bottom line: Who will enforce it?” she asked. “The police? An enforcement agency? Will neighbors have to turn in neighbors?”

Olsen said enforcement will be more “reactive,” or rather on a complaint basis based on information provided by Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal, the town code compliance officer, date-stamped photographs or residents.

Complaints can be called into 530-582-2919 or emailed to ktaber@townoftruckee.com.

Kashtan recommends the town does a timely review with TTSD of the ordinance to evaluate its effectiveness.

“Time will tell how it works,” Bryant added.