Snafu dogs TRPA public safety policy

INCLINE VILLAGE - What do Lake Tahoe birds, fish and other wildlife have that humans don't? A policy to protect them, says Washoe County Commissioner and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board member Jim Galloway.

Incline Village resident Norman Rosenberg expressed concern that neither health nor safety is considered by TRPA in making a decision under any of the nine thresholds in its compact. So Galloway formed a policy on how public safety should be considered in TRPA regulatory actions and ordinances.

"An improvement in water quality is not allowed to affect wildlife, but there are no thresholds about people and public safety," he said. "If a fish has it, why don't you? If a goshawk has this protection, why don't you? Why have we gone this far to establish this for nine other thresholds, but not for people?"

In January, Galloway proposed the following language be added to the agency's goals and policies:

"The TRPA Governing Board hereby affirms, as a matter of policy, that the maintenance of public safety is implicit in all that TRPA does, including the attainment of thresholds, and that no action or ordinance of TRPA may have the effect of diminishing public safety."

TRPA staff decided the wording needed adjustments, so TRPA executive director John Singlaub wrote:

"TRPA is a regional planning and regulatory authority, not a provider of public health and safety services. In the review and approval process of projects proposed in the region, TRPA will consider the implications to public health and safety. Nothing TRPA does is intended to diminish the role of public health and safety agencies or to increase the safety risk to visitors or residents."

Galloway explained that his proposal aimed to restrict the agency from taking actions that could degrade public safety, but TRPA changed the wording to restrict others, not itself.

"Staff took out any mention of TRPA double-checking itself, policing itself, and substituted more regulation of the public," he said. "We don't need more regulation of development; we already have agencies that do that. And fuels management needs to be done outside of urban areas."

But Singlaub said, "I'm not sure what the problem is. It seems to me that this is a solution in search of a problem ... but I don't know what the problem is."

Singlaub admits he made an error in the wording.

"There was no ill intent," he said. "I just didn't write it down right. It was my mistake. Now we're just trying to get out there exactly what Galloway wants. But we need to fully examine the unintended consequences of a sweeping decision like that."

Galloway said if the wording TRPA constructed passes, "We'll be worse off because we'll be increasing regulations of something that is not where the public safety problem is."

Singlaub said this could be another way for people who oppose TRPA's scenic ordinances to "get at it."

Galloway urges people to attend the TRPA Governing Board meeting on Wednesday, when the public safety issue will be discussed.

"I can only do a limited amount to persuade the board," he said. "Without the public, it's hard to succeed. I can bring it to the board, and I worked very hard to do it, but only the public and other community leaders around the basin can motivate the board to do the right thing ... take action."

The TRPA Governing Board meeting is at 9:30 a.m. at the North Tahoe Conference Center in Kings Beach.


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