California scientists " in Nevada? |

California scientists " in Nevada?

David Bunker

How does a University of California research facility end up in Nevada?

That’s exactly the question I had as I watched the world-class Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences open up in Incline Village in October.

Apparently, a UC Davis facility lands in Nevada when California puts up the “Not Welcome” sign.

The full story is an intriguing, if sad, tale of the California side of North Tahoe missing out on a prime opportunity to house a premiere science and research facility that belonged here.

To be fair, more than UC Davis facilities are housed at the new Incline Village center. The Desert Research Institute and Sierra Nevada College share space in the building.

But UC Davis, which has been monitoring Lake Tahoe’s waters for the last 40 years, was undoubtedly the driving force behind the new science center.

Being a California university, UC Davis officials naturally looked to locate the science center in Tahoe City in 2002.

That’s when things turned ugly. To say the would-be neighbors of the new center were irate might be putting it mildly.

The world-class science center would bring traffic, they said, and disturb a section of the lake around their Lake Forest neighborhood, according to articles published at the time in the Tahoe World.

Tim Leslie, at that point a state assemblyman, fought the project tooth and nail. It was going to go in on a California Department of Parks an d Recreation parcel near his home, after all.

Certain kinks, admittedly, had to be worked out. The state parks property’s zoning would have needed to be amended to allow the center.

Also at issue was whether recreation land purchased by a bond should be used as a site for a new science center.

But instead of working through these issues, and helping land the world-class facility in Tahoe City or at least California, opponents said a flat “no.”

UC Davis got the point pretty quickly. Nevada started looking like an inviting location for a state-of-the-art University of California research center.

Nevada officials apparently agreed. They welcomed the center with open arms, including adding in $725,000 in federal funding lobbied for by Nevada Senator Harry Reid.

And now we have Nevada’s University of California science center.

Something tells me that, as the research center gets national and international attention and attracts visitors from around the world ” and as Tahoe City continues to suffer from the blues of a seasonal economy ” we may wish we had this one back.

Come fall, the majority of the community may be wishing for those traffic jams of scientists.

But we can’t have this one back. We can only hope that the next time an opportunity to energize the local economy comes around, say perhaps an affordable housing project, that we think a little harder about the long-term effect on the California side of North Tahoe.

Perhaps residents will think about the future health of our community before rolling out the “Not Welcome” signs next time.

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