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Protecting Tahoe

Protecting Lake TahoeThe Need: For the last 40 years, Nevada and California have worked together to restore the clarity of Lake Tahoe’s famous blue waters, to maintain the lake’s water quality and to preserve and protect the fragile environment of the Tahoe Basin.  The two states work together through the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact, which allows for joint land use decisions in the basin. The compact has been responsible for much of the environmental gain over the last 40 years. Thanks to a recent provision in Nevada’s state law, however, our state will withdraw from the compact in 2015, putting the future of Lake Tahoe in serious jeopardy. Proponents of this provision argued that the Tahoe Basin did not have an updated regional plan. Now, the Governing Board has passed a new regional plan and there is newfound cooperation in the basin. Nevada needs to recommit to the protection of the crown jewel of the Sierra.

Legislation: A bill repealing the provision in state law that pulls Nevada out of the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact in October of 2015.

Benefits: By passing this legislation, Nevada will again be a full partner with California in the management of Lake Tahoe. With the renewed commitment, TPRA can move forward in implementing the new regional plan and administering environmental improvement programs in the basin. Finally, we will ensure that necessary federal funding is still available for transportation improvements and other important programs.

Our Protecting Tahoe Priority has been introduced to the Nevada Legislature as SB229. Click here to read the text of the bill and follow its passage.

Lake Tahoe FAQ on SB-271

What is at stake?

  • Lake Tahoe is world-renowned for both its beautiful setting and its cobalt-blue water. The remarkable clarity of the lake’s water is legendary. That clarity is also exceedingly fragile.  Affected by careless development, sediment and fertilizer run-off, sewage, air pollution and invasive species, Tahoe’s water clarity has diminished by about one third since the 1960s.
  • In the last few minutes of the 2011 Nevada legislative session, on a day that has been characterized as “an orgy of special-interest legislation,” a bill passed that put in motion a timetable to strip almost all environmental protections from Lake Tahoe.
  • The very features that make Lake Tahoe unique are those that are most threatened by the passage of this bill. However SB271 passed with almost no review of its impacts. An interim committee was supposed to review the environmental and financial impacts, but did not do so.
  • The only way to stop this disastrous timetable is for the Nevada Legislature to repeal SB271.
  • We have every indication that a few powerful interests will fight to keep the bill in place, whatever the cost to the Tahoe Basin. If we don’t speak out, they will win, and we will all lose as this unique and fragile area suffers.

What does SB271 mandate?

  • The bill mandates that Nevada will automatically withdraw from the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact in 2015 unless four conditions are met.
  • Only one of those conditions – approval of a new Regional Plan- could possibly be met. In fact, that condition has been met: a new regional plan was approved last December.  However, if SB271 is not repealed, Nevada will withdraw from the compact anyway.
  • SB271 will not fix problems within the compact – it will end the compact.

What are the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency?

  • Nevada and California entered into the bi-state compact, and created the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) in response to the alarming degradation of Lake Tahoe’s famous water quality in the 1960s. TRPA’s mission is to protect and restore the environment of Lake Tahoe.
  • TRPA governs land use in the Tahoe Basin and is responsible for meeting and maintaining environmental thresholds across the Basin.
  • TRPA funds, leads and coordinates important environmental initiatives, like invasive species control, among multiple federal entities, state agencies, research institutes, county and city governments, and civic associations.

Why is it crucial that Nevada remain in the compact?

  • Among other important environmental gains, Lake Tahoe clarity has remained nearly stable since 2000. These gains would not have been possible without the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact.
  • The compact agreement contains important environmental protections for Tahoe. If the compact dissolves, those safeguards disappear.
  • TRPA receives millions of dollars of federal funding for environmental protections and improvements. If the compact dissolves, that funding could disappear.

Take invasive species, for example:

  • Quagga mussels cause millions of dollars of damage to boats, infrastructure and pipes in Lake Mead.
  • Once a body of water is infested with this invasive species, we can only hope to control them. Eradicating them is impossible.
  • Lake Tahoe currently has one of the most successful prevention systems in place.  It requires millions of dollars of funding and precise, region-wide control. TRPA leads and funds it.
  • TRPA coordinates with some 40 public and private organizations, agencies and research partners, and with federal, state and local jurisdictions to implement a precise, region wide boat inspection system for the lake.
  • Boat inspections find, and decontaminate, boats infested with quagga mussels on a regular basis.
  • Without funding, and without region-wide authority to coordinate this crucial fight, how soon will it be before these hitchhikers find their way into Tahoe’s famous blue waters?  Once that happens, nobody wins.

The Sierra Club is litigating the plan. Doesn’t that mean we should keep SB271?

  • No. Using this lawsuit as an excuse not to repeal SB 271 is not defensible. There is nothing in SB271, including changes to the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact, that would have prevented this litigation.
  • TRPA has met the only condition in SB271 that could be met. A new regional plan was negotiated that enjoys wide public support from the two states, local governments, the business community and the environmental community. Holding TRPA responsible for lawsuits against it from private citizens or organizations just adds one more impossible condition.
  • The two states have agreed on a new regional plan and the existing voting structure has been proven to work. Many proponents of the original bill argued that this was their main goal. However, unless the Legislature acts, Nevada will still withdraw from the Compact, ending 40 years of environmental gains for one of the most beautiful, and fragile, bodies of water on the planet.

What is NCL’s Position on the lawsuit?

  • We support the regional plan, and we regret that the Sierra Club has chosen to litigate it. We’re hopeful that this litigation can be resolved quickly so that the new plan can be put into place.

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In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

~John Muir