Environmentalists blast Brown

A coalition of five green organizations attacked Californian Gov. Jerry Brown for approving Senate Bill 630, a pro-development bill that meets the demands of Nevada politicians for less restrained growth at Lake Tahoe.

A statement from the coalition read, “The lake that was once the bluest in America … now faces the very real prospect of becoming increasingly clouded by pollutants, fast spreading algae and aggressive water plants, with its spectacular mountain ridgelines and shoreline obstructed by new, taller buildings, and increased traffic and congestion around the lake.”

The legislation resulted from a threat by Nevada legislators to pull out of the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), created in 1969 after negotiations between California Gov. Ronald Reagan and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt. When that initial bi-state compact failed to protect the lake, it was amended in 1980 after negotiations between California and Nevada state legislators, with Brown (then in his second term as governor) and Nevada Gov. Robert List playing key roles.

Efforts in the Nevada Legislature to undercut the agency over the years, usually by Douglas County (which wanted heavier development in its territory), were always blocked by Washoe County lawmakers. That held until 2011, when Clark County Sen. John Lee sponsored a measure to pull Nevada out of the bi-state agency unless California agreed to Douglas-style changes. Senate Bill 271 was approved by the Nevada lawmakers in the a.m. hours of June 7 during the final moments of the 2011 legislature.

Subsequently, a new regional plan was approved for the Tahoe Basin and it included, among other things, allowing replacement of low-rise buildings with taller structures and transferring permitting to local governments—including Douglas County—which reverses one of the 1980 changes. Last month the TRPA approved a Douglas County South Shore Area Plan. A lawsuit filed in February by the Tahoe Area Sierra Club against the new regional plan is pending.