Conservation Groups Continue to Fight to Protect Lake Tahoe from Development

Groups appeal court decision on Tahoe Regional Plan Update


Trent Orr, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2082

Wendy Park, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2092

Laurel Ames, Tahoe Area Sierra Club, (530) 541-5752

Jennifer Quashnick, Friends of the West Shore, (530) 577-4233

Environmental groups filed an appeal today seeking review by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals of a recent U.S. District Court decision upholding the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s (TRPA) Regional Plan Update (RPU). The environmental impact statement on the RPU failed to analyze the RPU’s negative impacts on soil conservation, water quality, and air quality. On top of that flaw, TRPA made erroneous findings that the RPU would protect Lake Tahoe’s environment.

Earthjustice is representing the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore in the appeal.

“The Agency’s strange strategy to protect Lake Tahoe and its surrounding landscape from the damage caused by excessive urbanization over past decades is to promote even more development,” said Earthjustice attorney Wendy Park. “We will continue our fight to protect the lake from the misguided actions of the agency charged with protecting and restoring its environment.”

The RPU, approved in December 2012, actively promotes increased concentrated development in identified “urban centers” around the Lake, as well as creating more sprawl through the placement of large 4-season resorts outside of urban centers. Although current levels of urbanization have already seriously degraded the shoreline and air quality, the RPU will allow an additional 3,200 residential units and 200,000 square feet of new commercial floor area in the Tahoe Basin. TRPA claims that the increased urbanization will actually improve the Lake’s environment, by providing incentives for aging, poorly located development to be removed and replaced into urban centers. But these incentives allow far more new development in the Tahoe Basin than what would ever be removed. The new condos and hotels—the expected results of the incentive program according to TRPA’s economic studies—will increase the area of buildings and pavement near the Lake, sending more polluted runoff into its waters.

“TRPA has abandoned its core mission to restore and protect Lake Tahoe’s environment,” said Laurel Ames of the Sierra Club. “It’s a fallacy that the environmental damage caused to Lake Tahoe by the over-urbanization approved by TRPA can be solved by further intensifying urbanization, and this demonstrates just how far the agency has strayed.”

“Lake Tahoe’s famous blue waters that form the center of our national treasure have fallen victim to pollution and loss of clarity. Yet TRPA astonishingly approved a major increase in concentrated development along the Lake. That can only result in more sediments and pollutants entering the waters of the national treasure that TRPA is required to safeguard and restore,” said Susan Gearhart of Friends of the West Shore.

Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore filed their federal lawsuit in February 2013 challenging the new Regional Plan Update and have now exercised their right to appeal.

Lake Tahoe is one of the largest and deepest mountain lakes in the United States. TRPA’s fundamental purpose is to restore the lake’s former fabled clarity and the health of the Tahoe Basin’s environment.

The Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore are committed to fight for Lake Tahoe, to restore its clarity through rigorous enforcement of effective water pollution control measures, and to restore the natural values of the trees, the soil, the fish, and the scenic views and rural quiet that people demand.  “Tahoe does not deserve to be deliberately urbanized,” said Barb Williams, chair of the Mother Lode Executive Committee.

Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe, famed for its clarity, is one of the largest and deepest mountain lakes in the United States. (Celso Diniz / Shutterstock)

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