With little money left in Washington, politicians may sing different tune at Lake Tahoe this week
HOMEWOOD, Calif. and#8212; The 15th annual Lake Tahoe Summit will likely not be the typical glad-hand event featuring congressional delegates and state and local leaders trumpeting their ability to secure millions for crucial environmental projects meant to sustain the ecology here for years to come.
The climate in Washington, D.C., has changed in recent years, said Marcus Faust and#8212; the federal legislative advocate for the Incline Village General Improvement District and#8212; during a meeting last week at Lake Tahoe, and the elimination of specific earmarks combined with enormous pressure on Capitol Hill to reduce federal spending has cast a pale of doubt regarding the future passage of major environmental legislation, including the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. and#8212; who is hosting the summit and#8212; underscored the importance of Tuesday’s event at Homewood Mountain Resort.
and#8220;With all levels of government confronting leaner budgets, this year’s Tahoe Summit is especially important for ongoing restoration efforts,and#8221; Feinstein said in an e-mail. and#8220;This year’s summit will bring together both states’ governors and senators as well many state and local officials and private sector representatives to look at progress made over the past decade and chart a course for the next 10 years, a time when public dollars will be very scarce.and#8221;
That scarcity will likely prevent any large funding amounts from being committed to the Lake Tahoe region, said Stewart Bybee, communications director for U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.
and#8220;That will be one of the themes of this year’s summit,and#8221; he said. and#8220;We have to figure out how the states can partner with the private sector to ensure the long-term health of the lake and surrounding region.and#8221;
Julie Regan, spokeswoman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and#8212; the bistate environmental governing agency for Lake Tahoe and#8212; said public/private partnerships are imperative to addressing future environmental restoration efforts in the basin.
and#8220;We understand that we can no longer count solely on public funding, especially given the dire financial circumstances of both states and the federal government,and#8221; she said. and#8220;Saving Lake Tahoe is an expensive proposition.and#8221;
Besides Feinstein, Heller, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, U.S Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are all anticipated to speak next Tuesday.
and#8220;I am pleased that this 15th annual Summit will provide the opportunity for each of us to renew our commitment to the lake and its preservation,and#8221; Reid said in an e-mail Thursday. and#8220;Since 1997, we have made tremendous progress because we have harnessed the energy and industry of business owners, environmentalists, developers and community leaders and many others who vacation or making their living near Lake Tahoe.”
The summit also figures to be a crucial step for the future of Lake Tahoe following the adoption earlier this year of Nevada Senate Bill 271. The legislation calls for the Silver State’s withdrawal from TRPA by 2015 unless California and the U.S. Congress agree to changes including ending the requirement that projects and other major decisions be approved by a majority of members from both states.
While phone calls to both gubernatorial offices went unreturned for this story, Sandoval did tell the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza in mid-July he planned to talk about the bill with Brown prior to next Tuesday’s summit.
and#8220;I imagine that at some level, both governors will talk about bi-state cooperation and the impact that the region has environmentally and economically,and#8221; Regan said. and#8220;This is truly significant for both states to try to find a way to work together for the future of Lake Tahoe.and#8221;