My Turn: Shorezone plan finds middle ground |

My Turn: Shorezone plan finds middle ground

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has been working for many years to find solutions to problems identified in the long-standing debate about management of Lake Tahoe’s shorezone. We’ve learned it’s impossible to have consensus on the issue of how many piers and buoys should be on Lake Tahoe. However, we believe the final program resolves many outstanding issues and finds a middle ground among the drastically different opinions of the public.

The shorezone is the area where the lake meets the land and it is a fragile part of our overall ecosystem. Several environmental and scientific analyses have been conducted since the 1990s to help us make decisions about the shorezone. Most recently, over the last two years, an environmental analysis has been completed on six different alternatives relating to future development in the shorezone. Some alternatives call for no more private piers and others call for hundreds more.

The TRPA staff is recommending the adoption of Alternative 6A, which is a refined version of Alternative 6 released in July 2005.

Alternative 6A takes a measured, “go slow” approach that will protect Lake Tahoe. The final environmental document contains the hundreds of public comments we reviewed with responses to the issues raised. Here is a summary of some key points on the shorezone 6A proposal:

– Density standards: Alternative 6A calls for a density-based approach to piers around Lake Tahoe (the same approach as in Alternative 6 released in July 2005). There are currently 768 piers on Lake Tahoe. Under Alternative 6A, over the next 22 years there would be a maximum of 220 new private piers and 10 new public piers. Under this “go-slow” approach, TRPA would accept only up to 10 private pier permit applications each year. Total pier densities would not exceed an average of one per 200 feet of sandy shoreline or an average of one per 100 feet of rocky shoreline. All piers would be required to meet minimum scenic and environmental standards.

– Buoys: Lakefront property owners are eligible for two buoys per parcel for a total of up to 1,862 new buoys. A streamlined application process would be created to reduce the permitting paperwork for buoys along with an aggressive buoy enforcement program. TRPA incorporated public and board member comments into a grandfathering program in Alternative 6A. The program will recognize nearly all pre-existing buoys that have been in the lake for many decades. We have also removed the provision for annually dropping buoy chains to which many people objected. Instead, Alternative 6A contains a requirement for buoy owners to demonstrate maintenance on their buoys every other year. There are currently about 4,500 buoys on the lake.

– Boat sticker program: Boating is part of life at Lake Tahoe. However, scientific data show that boats can impact the water quality of the lake if certain measures are not taken. TRPA is proposing a boat pollution reduction program to make sure all boats entering the lake are free of invasive weeds, have lake-friendly engines and contain other water quality protection measures. Additional public input is planned to enhance the program.

– Emerald Bay protections: With the expected increased boating on Lake Tahoe over the next 20 years, the potential exists for more pollution to find its way into Emerald Bay. Based on emissions data provided by boat manufacturers, we have changed the controversial proposal to give Emerald Bay a “rest day” during peak weekends. Instead, Alternative 6A calls for a lower speed limit of 7 miles per hour in Emerald Bay. Because boat emissions are significantly reduced at lower speeds, and engine efficiencies improved, this approach can help reduce pollution while providing added benefits to public health and safety.

A workshop is being held at a joint meeting of the Governing Board and the Advisory Planning Commission Dec. 13 at Harrah’s, Stateline, Nev., beginning at 9:30 a.m. The public is welcome to attend to learn more about the final shorezone document and to provide input to the policy makers. A special meeting of the Governing Board will be held on the shorezone ordinances on Jan. 31 at the North Tahoe Conference Center. The plan is for the Governing Board to vote on the shorezone rules at this meeting after a public hearing. The final environmental document and new proposed ordinances will be online for public review at the end of November. Visit for more information.

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