New TRPA director needs to rethink priorities

The recent series of articles examing the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency confirmed some universal truths: People want to protect Lake Tahoe. Few of them agree how best to do that. The TRPA is a lightning rod for the whole debate.

We appreciate the effort of the journalists at the Tahoe Daily Tribune, the Nevada Appeal's sister newspaper, in preparing a provocative series on an agency central to everything at Lake Tahoe. The lake carries a particular interest for Carson City because its city limits stretch to the lake's shore and encompass some of the least-touched area on the eastern side.

Beyond that, legislators, supervisors and other elected officials in the capital city have a broad influence in how the TRPA does its job. They can shape its future, and with it the future of Lake Tahoe.

Two pointed criticisms come through clearly in discussions of how well the TRPA fulfills its mission:

-- Far too many TRPA resources are spent enforcing building restrictions, like measuring people's driveways and decks, that may have little or no effect on the clarity of the lake.

Consequently, much larger issues -- mass transit, for example -- get short shrift.

The result is too many residents of Lake Tahoe who believe the TRPA is there to punish them for hurting the environment rather than to help them preserve the environment.

-- The bigger the development, the better the chance it will find a way around TRPA regulations.

TRPA officials admit there is an advantage for developers who hire engineers and lawyers to negotiate its arcane rules, spend hours with TRPA staff and come up with "mitigating" alternatives -- i.e., money -- so their project gets built.

Meanwhile, a homeowner with limited resources has no clout.

Again, the impression for Lake Tahoe residents is of a bureaucracy set up mainly as an obstacle to the people it should be serving.

It's difficult to argue with the TRPA's core missions, nor should they be altered. The agency needs a new director who will rethink its methods and use its resources where they will best serve, first, the lake and, second, the people who live there.


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