Nevada's top forester has asked the state Attorney General's Office to decide which agencies have jurisdiction over fire issues in the Nevada portion of the Tahoe Basin.
In his request, Nevada State Forester Steve Robinson said the clarification was needed because "there appear to be conflicts with (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) standards and Nevada law regarding removal of fire hazardous vegetation."
Robinson's unusual request follows an opinion by North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District's counsel Geno Menchetti last September that the authority lies with local agencies, and not with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, or TRPA.
Menchetti based his opinion on the U.S. Constitution, which he says grants the authority because no mandate for it appears in either of the federal bistate compacts that created and organized TRPA.
Menchetti gave his opinion in part because the six fire chiefs issued a letter of concern in
August that shore-zone scenic rules proposed by TRPA should meet the highest fire standards.
Robinson's request comes when, by coincidence, a retiring basin fire chief is poised to become a member of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's Governing Board.
Outgoing Tahoe-Douglas Fire Chief Tim Smith, who retires in December, defeated District 4 incumbent Don Miner. Miner represents Douglas County on the TRPA Governing Board.
Although the county commission has considerable freedom in its choice of TRPA representative, it generally selects the commissioner who represents Douglas County's Lake Tahoe portion, which is contained entirely within District 4.
But, while Smith says he will be carefully monitor fire issues if appointed to the governing board, he thinks these didn't play a large role in his election.
"Fire, to a great extent, wasn't an issue," Smith said. "The vote was countywide, not just in my district. But I also won in my district, which was gratifying."
Smith said the issue may resolve itself. In a meeting with the basin's fire chiefs following their August letter, TRPA assured the chiefs it would comply with National Fire Protection
Association wildland fire codes.
"We felt we got a good commitment from TRPA at that meeting," Smith said.