Tahoe pier dispute lingers

INCLINE VILLAGE — Lake Tahoe land use regulators have tentatively endorsed new rules designed to end years of controversy over new pier construction and other shoreline activities.

But property owners and environmentalists said problems remain with proposed shoreline development rules hammered out during February discussions among the lieutenant governors of Nevada and California and other officials.

“What I heard today is everybody really dislikes this plan so we must be getting close,” Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and an appointee to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board, said during an agency meeting last week.

The board directed staff to prepare amended ordinances based on the compromise proposal with the goal of adopting changes into law sometime later this year.

Shoreline regulations include buoy placement and construction of new piers, generally prohibited around the lake for more than two decades. In 1987, TRPA banned new pier construction in prime fish habitat.

What followed was an on-again, off-again effort to agree on regulations guiding shoreline development. After studies showed piers had little impact on fish, attention shifted to such issues as pollution from boating, public access and scenic impacts.

Efforts to agree on regulations accelerated during the past four years, in part because of concern the agency could be in a legally vulnerable position after blocking pier construction for so long.

Those efforts hit a snag in January 2007, when California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and other top California officials said the proposed regulations could harm the environment.

Compromise discussions among Garamendi, Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and others resulted in a proposal scaling back some aspects of proposed regulations.

Under the proposal, the number of new, private piers allowed around the lake would be 104, down from 220, and only five new piers could be built in a year, rather than 10.

No new piers would be allowed in fish spawning habitat until a program is initiated to restore such habitat in other areas.

In “visually sensitive” areas, the average density of piers would change from one every 200 feet to one every 300 feet.

But property owners and environmentalists made clear last week that they still have significant concerns.

Jan Brisco, director of the Tahoe Lakefront Owners Association, said the sheer scale of proposed rules could make construction of any new piers unrealistic.

“This looks like a no-pier alternative to us, which is maybe the intent,” Brisco said. “It’s much more stringent than it was previously, there’s no doubt about it.”

Environmentalists view the latest compromise as an improvement but say it still would imperil the lake.

The proposal still would allow up to 1,862 new buoys and that could substantially increase the number of pollution-spouting boats at Tahoe, said Carl Young, program director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

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