Tahoe Fireworks Moves to Nevada to avoid California Regulators
STATELINE, Nevada — Tourism officials at Lake Tahoe say that obtaining Nevada-based sponsorship for their annual Fourth of July and Labor Day fireworks shows will help free them from California regulators after settling a lawsuit over pollution.
Leaders of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority say they've turned over their long-term sponsorship of the show to the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority on Nevada's east shore, moving primary regulation of the fireworks to Nevada officials.
"I'll just say that Nevada is a much friendlier place to shoot fireworks, and that's why we've done that," authority Executive Director Carol Chaplin told the Douglas County Board of Commissioners meeting in Minden on Thursday.
The shows feature spectacular, boat-launched displays and draw tens of thousands of people annually.
They also draw complaints about the discharge of spent fireworks into the alpine lake, including a lawsuit that was settled March 31 in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, California.
Plaintiffs Joseph and Joan Truxler, who live in Marla Bay near Zephyr Cove, claimed in the complaint filed in November that the authority violated the federal Clean Water Act more than 1,000 times during the past five years.
Under the settlement, the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority will step up oversight of post-fireworks cleanup and establish a hotline for residents to report any debris. The authority is based in Stateline, but represents hotel-casinos and businesses on both sides of the California-Nevada line at South Lake Tahoe.
John Packer, chairman of the separate Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority, said he's glad the agency was able to keep a 33-year-old Independence Day tradition alive.
"We're glad to be able to step up," Packer told the Tahoe Daily Tribune. "It was kind of an 11th-hour thing."
Tourism officials said the change means primary regulation of the fireworks falls to Nevada officials, and any future federal legal challenges would be heard in Reno instead of Sacramento.
California's Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board currently is tasked with regulating water issues in that area of the lake, but has no power across the state line.
Nevada does not have a similar governing body, although state and federal environmental regulations still apply under the Clean Water Act.
Chaplin told Lake Tahoe News last week the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority board received legal advice after the settlement that the best course of action would be to seek another sponsor.
"It makes sense," she said of the switch to the Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority. "The TVDA is a Nevada entity and the fireworks display are being executed in Nevada and the oversight is being performed by a Nevada authority."
Combined, the fireworks shows cost about $300,000 and provide an estimated $35 million boost to the local economy, according to officials with the two authorities.
The Fourth of July fireworks show alone draws upward of 75,000 people to the area, and officials estimate more than 100,000 people watch the spectacle each year.