Judge Announces Big Victory for Tahoe

Extensive expansion of piers and other facilities is derailed

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"I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole world affords."

Thus spake Mark Twain of Lake Tahoe, the magnificent high-altitude lake nestled in an alpine cup between Nevada and California.

But, as with so many other places, Tahoe’s fatal beauty has led to too much development—too many homes, too many casinos, too many cars, too many piers, and too many boats. The clarity of the water has suffered, as has the purity of the air.

The lake is supposed to be protected by the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, but the agency has been kinder to developers than it has been to the lake. For this reason, the League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Club sued two years ago to challenge a plan that would have allowed construction of 138 new piers, plus boat ramps, buoys, and other facilities around the lake, that would have increased boat traffic by an estimated 62,000 trips a year. This would have a deleterious effect on air and water quality and in general add to the overall commotion. The groups were represented by Wendy Park of Earthjustice.

On September 17, federal judge Lawrence Karlton in Sacramento blocked the development plan and told the agency to try again. His ruling also suggests that another upcoming plan, this one covering development on land throughout the Tahoe basin, will face similar scrutiny to ensure that it protects and restores the lake, rather than contributing further to its decline.

The fight to save Lake Tahoe has been going on for decades. This looks like a major turning point.

Tom Turner literally wrote the books about Earthjustice during his more-than-25 years with the organization. A lifelong resident of Berkeley, CA, he is most passionate about Earthjustice's maiden issue: wilderness preservation.