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“Uncertain” Future for Lake Tahoe

May 31, 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - It was a prime destination for many Nevadans and visitors from around the world during the long holiday weekend, but it's a safe bet that few of them knew about the battle brewing in Carson City affecting the future of Lake Tahoe. A bill is being considered that would pull Nevada out of the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact with California. Supporters of SB-271 say they're trying to protect private property rights.

Jean Stoess, chair of the Toiyabe Chapter of the Sierra Club, says she's heard that argument many times before, when she served on the board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and she maintains the issue is much larger than that.

"First of all, it's a statewide problem, not just a Northern Nevada issue. And right now, the existing governmental structure that can protect the lake is being threatened."

On May 27, the Nevada Senate voted 19 to 2 in favor of an amended version of the bill that would make the change by October 2014. An earlier version of the legislation would have removed Nevada from the compact before the end of this year, unless California agreed to several changes giving the Silver State more authority.

Stoess calls the lake a "national treasure," and she fears the change could lead to over-development.

Sierra Club vice-chair Dave Hornbeck says if Nevada does end up pulling out of the compact, he fears for the future of the lake - and more.

"In addition, it's going to be catastrophic for the costs of the counties that border the lake in Nevada, because regional planning will then be shifted to them, no doubt, since the state doesn't have any money to do it."

Some local governments hope to improve their tax base as a result of the measure, but Hornbeck says the federal government should withhold funding if Nevada leaves the compact, which he says has protected the lake for more than four decades.

"It's a bi-state compact, passed in 1969 by two Republican governors, Ronald Reagan of California and Paul Laxalt of Nevada, to protect the clarity of Lake Tahoe and its pristine blue waters - and it has been able to do that."

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV