Yes, believe it or not, this is what's happening behind closed doors in Carson City.
A Nevada Senate committee tempered anger toward California and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Monday, seeking changes to a two-state compact instead of immediate withdrawal from the agency that oversees development and environmental protections in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The Senate Government Affairs Committee amended and approved SB271. Among other things, the bill calls for an end to a supermajority of the voting, 14-member TRPA governing board needed to approve projects and regional plans. Any projects currently permitted would be grandfathered.
Nevada and California each have seven members on the board. There is also one non-voting member appointed by the president.
Other provisions require that any regional plan, which hasn't been updated since the mid-1980s, consider the Lake Tahoe Basin's changing economic conditions, and that anyone challenging a plan has the burden to show how it violates the compact.
During an earlier committee hearing, critics of the TRPA called the agency a “bloated bureaucracy” and an “obstructionist organization” that takes years to decide if a homeowner can cut up a dead tree or pave a driveway.
Nevada lawmakers lobbed anger at environmentalists and California, saying the liberal leanings of Nevada's western neighbor infringe on the property rights of residents on the eastern shore of the Sierra jewel.
So what exactly are we talking about?
Here's the deal. Lake Tahoe is an amazing jewel of The West... But over the years, there's been a massive struggle to stop this gem from losing any more of its luster. Because of development gone amok, the lake was losing its famed clarity and dazzling blue tint, and pollution was becoming a more serious problem. And as climate change has worsened, so too have the environmental dilemmas at Lake Tahoe. But thanks to efforts to curb the pollution and better regulate real estate development, Lake Tahoe has actually been improving. And by expanding on these efforts, it may even be possible to restore a full 100 feet of visibility in the lake in the future. There was even hope last month to turn these hopeful words into action.
A plan to return Lake Tahoe to its historic levels of clarity has moved one step closer to reality — but not before prompting questions about its costs and timing.
The California State Water Resources Control Board approved a plan earlier this month to return the lake to 100 feet of clarity within 65 years by limiting pollutants. The plan, developed by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, was forwarded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.
The initial step will require Lake Tahoe Basin counties, road departments and the city of South Lake Tahoe to reduce the amount of fine sediment entering the lake by 32 percent during the next 15 years.
By making the reductions, the lake should reach 78 feet of clarity, about eight feet more than exists today, officials say.
"Our goal is to give future generations the opportunity to see for themselves what Mark Twain saw when he said, upon visiting Lake Tahoe for the first time, `I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole world affords,'" Harold Singer, the Lahontan water board's executive officer, said in a statement.
But apparently, a few legislators in Carson City want none of this. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is in charge of regulating development in and around Lake Tahoe. But if passed, SB 271 would put Nevada on record opposing this and calling for its weakening and/or dismantling. After all, who needs a silly blue lake when ski resorts can be expanded and legislators' vacation homes can get new docks?
Here's the problem with this flawed thinking. It's incredibly shortsighted, and it ultimately hurts the economic well-being of the Tahoe region. After all, Tahoe is a major tourist destination welcoming over 3 million visitors annually. And what do people go for? One cookie-cutter ski resort? One shopping mall? A few boat slips? No, they go for the beauty of the lake! By allowing Tahoe's water quality to worsen and overall pollution problems to worsen just for the sake of letting a privileged few make a few extra million bucks, legislators would be lessening the appeal to visit Tahoe and jeopardizing the economic health of the greater community.
Go ahead and take a closer look at SB 271, then do something about it. We simply can't afford to forever lose an amazing gem like Lake Tahoe.