Opinion: Placer County is squandering Lake Tahoe’s public assets
Lost in the recent proceedings and decisions of Placer County regarding Tahoe is their failure to protect the natural resources that are part of the Public Trust.
The Public Trust is defined as those resources that are essential to the health and welfare of all persons and future generations. Clean air and water are obvious Public Trust assets, to be protected because they are essential to us and the future.
Other Public Trust assets include Lake Tahoe, our National Forests, Wilderness Areas and other public assets. As our natural resources diminish we recognize and act to protect other public resources worthy of our Public Trust: trails, recreation areas, fish and wildlife, the endangered species.
Legally, these Public Trust Assets are not to be sold or otherwise diminished to benefit private interests.
The Placer County Board of Supervisors and our state Attorney General failed to uphold their inherent responsibilities to steward and protect our Public Trust resource, Lake Tahoe. These government entities approved more pollution into Lake Tahoe that will further degrade the water quality of the lake. The “right to pollute” was granted to the Squaw developer, KSL, the private equity firm planning what may be the largest development in the North Lake Tahoe region’s history.
“We the people” formed various government bodies to protect our common interests, our common health and welfare. When these government bodies fail to protect our public (common) assets and interests they fail the public trust.
Placer County is degrading the public’s shared resources by allowing large and environmentally harmful developments at Martis Valley and Squaw Valley (with more developments in the queue).
The county is knowingly charting a course of year-round traffic jams, water resource pollution and depletion, increased public exposure to natural hazards (avalanches) and greater threats to public health and safety (emergency evacuations). For this reason, the county is being sued.
What Placer County is giving away to private interests are public assets. “We the people” ultimately pay the price of irresponsible government actions.
The price is in higher taxes (never lower), gridlock on our roads, more water and air pollution, more avalanche damage to life and property, higher risks during emergency evacuations and (significantly) the overall degradation of the Tahoe experience.
It will be up to us, the people, to hold our government to that bigger vision of a place of beauty, inspiration and health, protected from short-sighted greed. See “Keep Squaw True” — keepsquawtrue.org — for more information.
Daniel D. Heagerty is an Alpine Meadows resident.