Lawsuit to block new TRPA rules dead

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A federal judge has dismissed the Sierra Club lawsuit aimed at blocking implementation of the new Tahoe Regional Plan.

U.S. District Judge John Mendez of Sacramento ruled in favor of the TRPA Governing Board motion, upholding the agency’s ability to make policy decisions based on “sound science and a complete record.”

The plan was in the works for nearly a decade but got a powerful jump-start in 2011, when the Nevada Legislature passed legislation threatening to pull out of the bi-state compact to manage the lake if changes weren’t made.

Nevada backed off that threat after seeing the new proposed plan, and Gov. Brian Sandoval certified that California had agreed to the changes requested by Nevada.

The biggest change in the Regional Plan ratified by both California and Nevada involves requiring consideration of economic conditions when adopting plans to control development in the Tahoe Basin and to shift the burden of proof in challenging a TRPA decision to the party challenging that action. Under the old compact, that burden has always been on TRPA.

“This encouraging decision could not have come at a more critical time for Lake Tahoe,” said TRPA Executive Director Joanne Marchetta. “The pace of environmental restoration will accelerate under the new plan with more opportunities for healthy, sustainable communities.”

The new plan also cedes significant authority long held by the TRPA Governing Board to the five local governments in the basin and the two states.

Groups including the League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Nevada Conservation League said they support the plan.

State and local leaders also praised the plan as a milestone for Tahoe.

Other innovative changes include transfer of development-rights policies in an effort to shrink the development footprint around Lake Tahoe and reduce reliance on autos to get around. The goal is to provide incentives to protect and restore more environmentally sensitive lands and programs, cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by reducing the vehicle miles in the basin.

The Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore sued immediately to block it.

It wasn’t clear Monday whether Mendez’s decision will be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco.


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