Opinion: TRPA must do the right thing to save Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe has been violated all along since modern man set foot on its shores some 150 years ago, and it continues to be violated in spite of TRPA’s mission to preserve the lake’s clarity and the Tahoe Basin’s pristine environment.
Lake Tahoe today is not the same lake that enchanted Mark Twain over 150 years ago when its panorama burst upon him for the first time at a vantage point along a mountain trail.
And it is not the same lake that captured the imagination of John Muir, who came to America with his family at the age of 10 in 1849.
He was one of the earliest proponents of a Tahoe national park, and a naturalist devoted to the conservation of the wilderness of the West.
TRPA has failed so far in its mission: Since its inception 46 years ago, the lake’s water clarity is still deteriorating.
Recently, a new invasive species is threatening to be brought to the lake on the hulls of tourists’ boats.
Private beaches designed to accommodate small residential communities now resemble that of Coney Island.
Sirens wailing in the wee hours of the night are reminiscent of places the residents wanted to leave behind.
Congested traffic and parking along with all this malaise make one wonder why those residents came here in the first place.
Yet, TRPA continues to entertain proposals by developers, which would jeopardize the lake’s clarity, the Tahoe basin environment and the safety of people in the area.
Case in point is the proposal for a 550-unit campground on the west ridge of Brockway Summit, a resort-like campground with community fire pits in the middle of a forest that is currently being reviewed by TRPA.
As pointed out in my previous opinion on this subject — “Lake Tahoe national park only option to save us from development,” on Sept. 9 — a fire at the campground with a northerly wind would be catastrophic.
Highway 267, one of the two escape routes, would be in flames all the way from Brockway Summit to Kings Beach. And should the fire jump the ridge, which would be very likely, Highway 28, the other escape route, may be inaccessible, probably all the way from Kings Beach to Tahoe City.
My friend Tom Trimble, whose house is in Tahoe Vista on the lake, across Highway 28, is very concerned about being trapped along with thousands of other residents.
He is comforted, however, with the thought that he would be able to cross the lake to safety — hoping the lake would not be blanketed by suffocating smoke.
It is time for TRPA to change course: It is time to stop catering to the interests of merchants, developers and tourists and pay more attention to the mission with which it was entrusted — which, specifically, is to preserve and enhance the lake and the surrounding environment for future generations.
For me, the choice is simple and clear, and to paraphrase the words of Coach Lombardi, “Preserving the lake is not the most important thing, it is the only thing.”
With that in mind, the only viable option is to make Lake Tahoe area a national park. Many will object, claiming the area is already too developed, but a cursory review of the feasibility of buying or reclaiming many private lands along the shoreline belie these claims.
Twenty seven miles along the east shore, extending from Zephyr Cove to Incline Village, is forest land acquired by the state of Nevada from the estate of Captain George Whittell Jr. Most of the south and southwest shore is national forest, spotted by marinas and the like.
The northwest shore is lined up with old private cottages and could be purchased or acquired in due course under mechanism of acquisition of sensitive lands along the 72 miles of shoreline of the lake.
Consequently, the boundary of the park would coincide with the Tahoe Basin boundary, but would follow the shoreline at South Shore, Tahoe City, Incline Village, etc., circumventing these towns — and thus, keeping populated area outside the park.
The process of acquiring these properties may take 50 years or more, but 50 years to accomplish a vision that would be there for the next thousand years and beyond is just a pause in the march of time.
Sid Bekowich is an Incline Village resident. He may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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