Environmental groups sue to block new land use plan for Lake Tahoe
A broad-based plan designed to guide land use at Lake Tahoe for decades is “deeply flawed,” fails to protect an endangered environment and should be scrapped, two environmental groups argue in a lawsuit filed Monday against the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento by the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore asks the court to invalidate Tahoe’s Regional Plan, approved by TRPA’s governing board on Dec. 12 after years of discussions and attempts at compromise over a vision for Tahoe’s future.
The lawsuit is necessary to prevent overly dense, too-tall development around a lake designated by Congress as deserving special protection, critics argued in the suit.
TRPA officials counter that the litigation endangers a best-shot chance at protecting the environment while allowing redevelopment of aging urban areas and revitalizing an ailing economy.
The plan improperly delegates authority to approve many commercial projects to Tahoe’s counties and the city of South Lake Tahoe, said Trent Orr, an attorney for Earthjustice, the law firm representing the conservation groups. It is a policy reversal that flies in the face of the pact between Nevada and California that established TRPA and set up a system to protect a national treasure from the impacts of unguided development, Orr said.
“They can’t legally cede that power and leave it to the local governments that failed to protect Tahoe in the past,” Orr said. “There is no reason to believe that cash-strapped local governments would adopt and enforce adequate environmental protection measures in the face of lucrative development proposals.”
Laurel Ames of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club said development allowed through the new regional plan will allow a substantial increase in polluted runoff flowing into the lake from pavements and buildings, contributing to the leading cause of the ongoing loss of Tahoe’s famed clarity.
“This is a wrenching departure from past practice and is not in line with the spirit or law of the bi-state compact created to protect the lake,” said David von Seggren of the Toiyabe chapter of the Sierra Club...