With the possibility that funds to protect environmentally sensitive lands in Lake Tahoe will be raided by the federal government to balance the budget, owners of a property near the summit of Mount Rose are pushing ahead with plans to sell the 777-acre parcel for public use.
Jacques Etchegoyhen of Terra Firma Associates, the firm representing Incline Lake Corp., the owner of the property, said he believes the sale of Incline Lake will go through this year, and that there is strong support for the acquisition.
Incline Lake Corp. announced in December plans to try to sell the land to the Bureau of Land Management through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which uses money raised from the sale of federal land in southern Nevada to acquire environmentally sensitive properties.
"Incline Lake essentially makes a perfect poster child for the wonderful acquisitions the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act can do," Etchegoyhen said.
That's especially important at a time when President Bush is proposing taking up to 70 percent of the land act's funds, a move that could limit acquisitions and environmental projects at Lake Tahoe, he said.
Etchegoyhen recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where he says there is strong support from members of Congress to protect SNPLMA funds.
Even with the possibility that the land will be sold this summer, Incline Lake Corp. and Washoe County officials have expressed concern over the fate of the structures on the property.
Officials at the Forest Service, which would receive the land through SNPLMA, have said the agency is unwilling to own or manage structures and would require that the buildings be torn down, said Gary Weigel, lands and minerals program manager for the Forest Service.
The Incline Lake property - the largest piece of privately owned land on the Nevada side of the lake - includes an observatory with a deep space telescope and a 14,000-square-foot cabin with an indoor pool.
"We've had some colorful acquisitions over the years that have just caused a lot of problems and we don't want to repeat history," Weigel said. The Forest Service recently announced plans to bulldoze a mansion on the Dreyfus Estate, an East Shore property the agency has owned since 1996.
Weigel said the Forest Service is not interested in issuing a special-use permit, and the only other option is for another entity to own the buildings and adjacent land.
Etchegoyhen said it's a possibility that another party purchase the land, but that it would probably have to be purchased by a government agency.
Washoe County Parks Director Karen Mullen said the county has offered to create a partnership to manage the building, but said purchasing the buildings outright is most likely out of the question.
"Certainly if we had money to do that we would consider it, but we don't have the money," Mullen said.
Although the fate of the buildings remains in question, Weigel, who recently spent time in Las Vegas with the BLM, said he believes the acquisition will go through this year.
"For all intents and purposes, Incline Lake is number one on the (SNPLMA) acquisitions list," he said.