Battle brewing over Tahoe pier regulations

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Environmentalists and property rights advocates are squaring off as land use regulators consider new rules governing piers and other shoreline structures at Lake Tahoe.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is considering lifting a 17-year ban on new pier construction and updating rules over placement of buoys, floating docks and boat ramps.

During a hearing Wednesday, property rights advocates and lakeside homeowners complained to TRPA's governing board that policies outlined in a draft environmental impact statement are unacceptably burdensome and complex.

Environmentalists and other Tahoe residents countered that the proposed policies could open the floodgates for pier construction, increasing the number of motorboats polluting the lake and otherwise endangering a sensitive and already threatened high mountain ecology.

"The bottom line is we have a very contentious situation here," said Gregg Lien, an attorney representing many lakeside homeowners. "We've got big differences, there's no question about it."

Regulations guiding shoreline development at Lake Tahoe remain one of the largest unresolved issues there. The question was largely ignored when the bistate agency adopted its last regional plan for the Tahoe Basin in 1987, the same year the ban on construction of new piers in fish spawning habitat was enacted.

Attempts to adopt regulations in 1996 were also sidelined, in part due to huge controversy over the agency's crackdown on polluting, two-stroke marine engines.

Past concerns centered on the possibility new piers could interfere with successful spawning of Tahoe's fish, but a set of studies conducted in the 1990s concluded piers had no effect or actually helped fish spawning.

Under the latest set of regulations - described by some as "monstrous" in complexity - TRPA would lift the moratorium on new pier construction.

Under differing options reviewed under the environmental study, Tahoe's existing number of 768 piers could be increased to as many as 1,399 or decreased to 733. Other options propose numbers in between.

The lakes existing 4,454 buoys could be increased by more than 6,000 or decreased to 4,283.

Some speakers urged the agency not to take any action that would increase the number of piers, which Tahoe resident Don Edwards described as ugly and an unnecessary convenience for the lake's wealthiest residents.

"We all need to be willing to sacrifice to preserve this beautiful lake - even the most affluent," Edwards said.

Jon-Paul Haries of the League to Save Lake Tahoe said the plan fails to identify any sensitive areas where ll shoreline development should be prohibited.

Michael Donahoe of the Sierra Club urged TRPA to only enact policies that contribute to the environmental restoration of Lake Tahoe, not add problems.

"Everything we do should be a net gain," Donahoe said.

But after years of frustration, lakeside homeowners believe the new proposal is "mind-bogglingly complex" with many unnecessary regulations and resulting problems, Lien said.

"What we have been provided is possibly fatally flawed," agreed Jan Brisco, executive director of the 600-member Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association.

"That is a terrible, terrible blow to all of us who have been working and waiting so long."

Brisco said violations against TRPA's existing policies are occurring at an unprecedented rate and urged the agency not to adopt shoreline development standards that would only add to that problem.

The agency will consider the comments as it prepares a final environmental impact statement on the proposals.


Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal,


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