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Lake Tahoe pact

Nevada had to threaten to pull out of the two-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, but the organization finally seems more willing to listen to local residents when it comes to local needs, including health and safety issues.

The agency was formed in the 1960s to create uniform minimum standards for preserving Lake Tahoe’s environment. But as is so often the case these days, a body initially charged with striking a balance between preservation and the needs of local residents gradually skewed toward “no upgrades, no more development, ever.”

The issue came to head during the 2011 Legislature. A new law passed by legislators and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval authorizes Nevada’s withdrawal from the long-standing compact unless the TRPA agrees to update its regional plan and changes how building projects are approved, giving local governments more control over permitting and other rules.

Nevada state Sens. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, and James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, charged that California members have blocked nearly every proposed development in the basin. Basin residents testified during hearings on Sen. Lee’s bill that TRPA has even prevented health and safety projects on private property, such as removing pine needles for fire protection.

Finally, the Nevada Appeal now reports the TRPA governing board has gotten the message, endorsing the concept of allowing local governments to take over more duties, while adopting an updated code book intended to simplify Tahoe Basin regulations.

Good. Lake Tahoe is indeed a regional jewel, well worth safeguarding. Local jurisdictions also have a vested interest in making sure the long-term attractiveness and value of the lake aren’t sacrificed for short-term gain. Some multi-state consultation before allowing major projects that could cause environmental damage? Fine. That makes sense.

But letting homes burn down because residents are forbidden to rake up pine needles? Time for some change.

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