The partnership between California and Nevada that created the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency turned 45 years old on Thursday, marking nearly a half-century of progress in the protection and restoration of Lake Tahoe and its treasured environment.
President Richard Nixon signed the Bi-State Compact creating TRPA on Dec. 18, 1969. Nixon’s signature followed the compact’s ratification by Congress and its approval by both states’ legislatures and former governors Ronald Reagan in California and Paul Laxalt in Nevada.
Former U.S. Sen. Alan Bible, D-Nev., introduced the legislation to approve the compact in Congress. He called Nixon’s signature of the bill “the best news possible for those concerned about preserving one of nature’s most priceless heirlooms.”
TRPA was created to oversee planning for the region and to manage development. The agency halted the runaway growth Tahoe was experiencing in the 1960s, ending plans for development of a city the size of San Francisco and construction of a four-lane highway around the Lake with a bridge across Emerald Bay.
The Compact, amended in 1980, established growth caps for all types of development in the Tahoe Basin, including residential, tourist, and commercial land uses, and also set ambitious restoration targets TRPA is mandated to attain for key environmental indicators such as air and water quality, lake clarity, wildlife habitat, vegetation, scenery, and recreation. Unique in the United States, the agency’s mission to harmonize environmental protection with property rights and community vitality has garnered international attention over the decades.
TRPA’s ban on watercraft with inefficient two-stroke engines was the nation’s first. While controversial when approved in 1999, the ban has significantly reduced fuel-related pollution at Lake Tahoe, one of the world’s largest, cleanest, and clearest high mountain lakes. The agency’s mandatory watercraft inspection program for aquatic invasive species prevention is considered a model for the nation.
California and Nevada reaffirmed their partnership to protect Lake Tahoe through legislation both states approved in 2013 to endorse the Regional Plan Update TRPA adopted in Dec., 2012. Community involvement in the plan update was foundational to the agency’s future direction.
“As we celebrate this milestone anniversary following an unprecedented level of public engagement in planning Lake Tahoe’s future over the last few years, we can all be proud that the Lake and the community are moving in a positive direction,” said Julie Regan, TRPA’s Chief of External Affairs.
Major goals of the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan Update include accelerated attainment of TRPA’s environmental thresholds, development of more walkable and bikeable communities, the transfer of development out of sensitive environmental areas and into town centers, and the environmental redevelopment of legacy properties built before modern environmental standards took effect.
“The two states have reaffirmed their partnership for the Lake, and their commitment to Tahoe remains strong,” said Shelly Aldean, Chair of the TRPA Governing Board. “As a bi-state organization, we know the only way we’ll be able to save the Lake is to keep that cooperation alive.”