Year in review: Top stories of 2008 | SierraSun.com

Year in review: Top stories of 2008

Greyson HowardSierra Sun

APPresident-elect Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in Chicago, Monday, Nov. 24, 2008.

The Sierra Sun put some of the year’s top stories to a vote in a recent web poll. 187 votes set the order for the top seven; we added on another three.Be sure to check out our as well

2008 will go down as an historic election year, voting in the United States first African-American president Barack Obama.Democrats made gains throughout the nation, indicating an appetite for change in the countrys political landscape.Closer to home, however, Republican Tom McClintock won a hard-fought congressional race against Charlie Brown, keeping the district in conservative hands.On a local level, many elected officials held onto their positions, with the notable exception of Placer County Supervisor Bruce Kranz, who was unseated by Jennifer Montgomery.

A dry spring resulted in a early fire season in 2008, when a lightning storm sparked a whole complex of fires in the Yuba and American river canyons on June 21.A smoky pawl spread over Truckee, the Lake Tahoe Basin and much of California for weeks as more and more blazes lit in the states dry forests, leading to some of the most unhealthy air many Sierra residents have ever experienced. The poor air quality and fire danger caused the cancellation of both the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and Donner Lake Triathlon.Nearby, the fires burned nearly 30,000 acres, while on a state level, more than 1 million acres burned the most since consistent records have been kept.

Local ski coach and aviator died in a plane crash July 2 near the Sierra Valley.A search launched when Beck, 37, was reported missing found the plane days later, starting an investigation into the cause of the crash.Early results found no mechanical failures and considered the summers heavy smoke and limited visibility, but drew no conclusions.Beck, and his wife, Lisa, have two young sons. He was a fixture in the Truckee skiing community and trained Olympians Johnny Mosely and Shannon Bahkre.His grandfather, Don Beck, was also killed in a crash into Lake Tahoe in 1991.

Members of the Kings Beach community waged war over how many lanes should be threaded through their towns commercial core.Two options either three lanes with roundabouts or four lanes with traffic lights, each accompanied by sidewalks and other improvements, pitted neighbor against neighbor and leaves 2008 still in the grips of an unresolved lawsuit.The staff-preferred three-lane option was first denied by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, then approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors, only to be chosen for reconsideration by the planning agency again.

Local teachers were at odds with Tahoe Truckee Unified School District over salary increases in 2008.Teachers considered a work-to-rule action where they would not participate in after-hours field trips, clubs, sporting events or home study sessions as a possible recourse, but eventually the district and teachers reached an agreement.A series of 3 percent salary hikes over the course of the year were agreed upon.In February, the two teachers union supported candidates were elected to the districts school board, bringing change out of controversy.

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California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Truckee in October to announce the formation of a Northern Sierra Partnership, poised to fund large-scale conservation projects throughout the region.A small group of private donors put up $25 million to start funding the acquisition or preservation of 100,000 acres between Lake Tahoe and Lassen Volcanic National Park.Partners include the Truckee Donner Land Trust, the Sierra Business Council, the Feather River Land Trust, the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land.Schwarzenegger emphasized the importance of land conservation in the face of looming climate change.

After more than two decades of debate, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency passed regulating documents for the lakes shoreline in October.The decision left two of the most divergent interest groups in the debate conservation organizations and the Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association disappointed.Much of the debate on Wednesday focused around a section in the Shorezone program which required the TRPA to consult with either California or Nevada to determine legal public access when the TRPA approved a project adversely affecting that access.And it seems the battle has just begun, as the Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association filed suit challenging Shorezone in December.

An unlikely animal turned up in the woods north of Truckee in the winter of 2008 a wolverine.Katie Moriarty, an Oregon State University masters candidate studying Martins captured the first images of the illusive predator not seen in California in 82 years.The find piqued the interest of the scientific community, and a search for further evidence ensued.Scat and hair showed the solitary and aggressive relative of the weasel was a male, and came from a genetic group that at its closest comes from 600 miles away in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.As suddenly as it appeared, the wolverine was gone, leaving its story a mystery.

A group of Reno-Tahoe residents, athletes and politicians continued efforts to win the bid for a Winter Olympic Games for the region.The group aims to bring the Olympics back to the area in 2018 for the first time since the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Games.Members of the group touted benefits to infrastructure and local economy that come with just making the bid, with goals of improving roadways and rails throughout the region.Unfortunately, the group suffered a setback with the untimely death of CEO Jim Vanden Huevel in March, who championed the cause tirelessly.Today the effort continues under the leadership of Nevada Lt. Governor Brian Krolicki.

While early in the year many were optimistic Truckee-Tahoes tourist draw would insulate the region from a growing economic storm, eventually local building slowed to a crawl, and downtown shops reported business the worst in 40 years.Few escaped the affects of the real estate market troubles and economic downturn in a region that relies on construction, growth, and tourism for revenue.Local government agencies had to tighten their respective belts, with the Town of Truckees building department becoming a veritable ghost town and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency set on closing its doors on the North Shore.