August 23, 2011 > Nevada, California governors vow to preserve Tahoe
Nevada, California governors vow to preserve Tahoe
By Sandra Chereb, Associated Press
HOMEWOOD, Calif. (AP), Aug 16 - California Gov. Jerry Brown and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval pledged Tuesday to work together to protect Lake Tahoe and try to navigate the differences between the two states over how the ``jewel of the Sierra'' should be regulated when it comes to development and environmental controls.
Brown described the relationship as one between the ``lion and the lamb,'' and suggested the two need to lie down together and come up with a plan to ``keep Tahoe sane, sound and sustainable.''
In a symbolic gesture, the two governors at an annual summit regarding the delicate ecosystem in the Tahoe basin signed an agreement that calls for reducing the amount of fine sediment that enters the lake over the next 65 years, with a goal of achieving clarity to 97 feet by 2076. It's an ambitious target and comes after a report that said Lake Tahoe's clarity fell more than 3 feet last year to 64.4 feet, its second lowest reading since the late 1960s. The governors also agreed to work together toward a new regional plan for managing the basin.
Tuesday's summit, hosted by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., marked the first time since the inaugural event in 1997 that the governors from the two states attended together.
``We are going to work very, very well in the future,'' said Sandoval, a Republican, at the forum held at Homewood Mountain Resort on Tahoe's west shore.
Nevada passed a law this year calling for the state's withdrawal from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which was created by Congress in 1969.
During legislative hearings, Nevada lawmakers complained that the votes needed on the 14-member governing board to approve regulations and projects within the basin are stymied by a pro-environmental bias from California.
The law calls for Nevada's withdrawal from the agency by 2015 unless the voting scheme is changed. It also demands a new regional plan to be adopted within 18 months that includes the Tahoe Basin's economy as a factor. Another element would require challengers to projects within the basin to bear the burden of proof if lawsuits are filed.
Sandoval said the law ``means different things to different audiences,'' said stressed that ``Nevada is committed to doing its part,'' to preserve the lake Mark Twain called the ``fairest picture the whole earth affords.''
Speaking to reporters afterward, Brown, a Democrat, said there are significant issues between the two states, while Feinstein questioned whether it was possible to amend the 42-year-old Tahoe compact as sought by Nevada. Such action would require approval by both state legislatures as well as Congress.
Since President Bill Clinton hosted the first Tahoe Summit bringing international attention to environmental threats facing the lake, $1.55 billion in combined funding from private, federal, state and local government sources have financed long-rage environmental improvement programs within the Tahoe Basin.
Feinstein stressed the accomplishments:
-500 miles of erosion control on roadways.
-45,000 acres of forests treated for hazardous fuel reductions, an area the size of San Francisco.
-24 square miles of restored wildlife habitat.
-134 miles of bike and pedestrian routes created.
``We have made a great deal of progress,'' she said.
But the political and economic realities have changed dramatically, she said, and private industry will be asked to help carry a bigger portion of future restoration work.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who helped orchestrate the first Tahoe forum, described this year's summit as a ``more somber time,'' given politics and the economy.
Most federal dollars to finance Tahoe environmental programs - roughly $300 million - has come from the sale of federal lands in southern Nevada. But the boom years in Las Vegas collapsed under the weight of the Great Recession, and governments at all levels are grappling with leaner times and deficits.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., agreed, saying the sale of federal lands to help Tahoe ``is no longer a long-term funding option.''
``We have to learn to do more with less,'' Heller said, suggesting it was time to re-evaluate the role of the TRPA and prioritize its responsibilities.
Reid said he hoped next year's summit would bring brighter news, but stressed that efforts to preserve Tahoe's pristine waters can't be abandoned.
``This is a world treasure that we have a responsibility to protect,'' he said.