What would we do without TRPA?

Oh, what would we do without the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency?

That's the thought going through the heads of some Incline Village property owners and lawmakers Sharon Angle, Ron Knecht, John Carpenter, Don Gustavson and Harry Mortenson with the introduction of AB305.

The bill, which is headed for the Assembly Government Affairs Committee, would withdraw Nevada from the compact with California established by Congress in 1980 to protect Lake Tahoe's environment and scenic beauty.

The TRPA can be difficult to defend at times. Its bureaucratic web of red tape is legendary, and it can seem autocratic and arbitrary. Almost every action is sure to rile somebody.

The action riling the Incline Village bunch this time is the TRPA's scenic threshold, which sets rules for how much buildings are allowed to disrupt the scenery around Lake Tahoe. It's the latest in a series of strict, sometimes subjective, regulations that have all but shut down property development.

The scenic regulations are being challenged in federal court, which is an appropriate venue for such disputes. But as we noted recently, the TRPA has been successful in defending itself against past challenges all the way to the Supreme Court.

What would we do without the TRPA?

Under Angle's bill, the responsibility for protecting the environmental treasures of Lake Tahoe -- described in the 1980 compact as "irreplaceable" -- apparently would fall to Nevada's Division of State Lands, at least on this side of the lake.

How the Division of State Lands would pick up this responsibility isn't clear. It certainly would seem to require every bit of the $2.8 million Angle claims Nevada would save by withdrawing from its partnership with California -- unless, of course, the intent of the bill is simply to dismantle the array of environmental safeguards established over the past two decades.

If that's the case, then the bill's sponsors should come out and say they believe the protection of private property rights around Lake Tahoe is more important than the lake itself.

Because that is what the Tahoe compact was designed to preserve -- the public's interest in the lake and its surrounding forests. They may argue endlessly about TRPA's methods, but its mission remains indisputable. The agency needs fixing, not the compact.

Like its several predecessors over the years, AB305 could do great damage to Lake Tahoe and nothing to protect it. What would we do without Lake Tahoe?


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