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Judge strikes down Tahoe shore rules

RENO — A federal judge on Thursday struck down rules allowing new buoys, piers and boat ramps around Lake Tahoe, saying a regulatory agency did not go far enough to make sure the environmental quality of the lake would be protected.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento, Calif., in his 66-page ruling, handed two environmental groups a victory by sending the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s shore zone regulations back to the drawing board.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe and Sierra Club sued after the agency in October 2008 approved regulations allowing 1,862 new buoys, 138 new piers, six new boat ramps and 235 new boat slips. The groups contend it didn’t properly review environmental impacts.

Wendy Park, an Earthjustice attorney who represents the groups, hailed the ruling, saying the new facilities would have contributed to more pollution and reduced the clarity of the lake straddling the California-Nevada border.

“This is a very significant ruling for Lake Tahoe,” she said. “This decision forces TRPA to make sure they actually take their duty to protect and restore the lake into account when they’re adopting new major development.”

Agency officials said they were unsure whether the ruling would be appealed.

“We struggled for 22 years to find middle ground on the polarizing shore zone issue and we’re disappointed to be back where we started,” Joanne Marchetta, the agency’s executive director, said. “As is always the case at Lake Tahoe, achieving a balance between our spectacular environment and private property rights is extraordinarily challenging.”

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