Bill Yeates: TRPA marks 50 years at the start of a new decade
2019 was another milestone year for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, highlighting what can be accomplished when partners come to the table in the spirit of collaboration. We found success on a variety of projects, both large and small. Implementation of the new shoreline plan began with registration and permitting of existing moorings. A stakeholder group worked on refining the vision of the U.S. Highway 50 Revitalization Plan and completed a Main Street Management Plan in the busy tourist core area of the South Shore. And, this past summer marked the opening of the spectacular new Tahoe East Shore Trail that links Incline Village to Sand Harbor, a promising piece in the vision to one day see a multi-use pathway that will circle the lake.
Now entering my second year as chair of the TRPA Governing Board, I am encouraged by our progress, and I am heartened by our partners around Lake Tahoe, who tirelessly work to protect this national treasure. Last month marked the 50th anniversary of the 1969 signing of the Bi-State Compact that created TRPA. As we begin our anniversary year at the start of this new decade, we must strategically take on the new and continuing challenges that are facing Lake Tahoe. The consequence of climate change may be our biggest challenge as it will affect Lake Tahoe’s clarity, increase the threat of wildfires, and jeopardize our economy unless we make changes in anticipation of a warming climate. We must improve and expand the Tahoe Basin’s transportation options and encourage affordable housing projects so that those who wish to live and work here can do so. We can do all this by working together.
In 2018, the TRPA Governing Board approved the U.S. Highway 50 South Shore Revitalization Project, which calls for re-routing Highway 50 behind the Stateline casino core, with a plan to turn the current Highway 50 into a more inviting and pedestrian-friendly main street. I was proud to work with community stakeholders on a common vision for this plan. Our partners at the Tahoe Transportation District and the City of South Lake Tahoe have also made significant strides in partnering with private developers to construct affordable housing units to replace homes to accommodate the highway’s realignment.
To address the threat of wildfires and to protect Tahoe’s forested landscape, TRPA is working closely with the Lake Tahoe West Restoration Partnership to develop a landscape resilience strategy that aims to protect another 60,000 acres of forest on Tahoe’s West Shore over the next 20 years. TRPA is updating regulations that will streamline permitting for forest health initiatives like prescribed fire and forest thinning while encouraging the rehabilitation and protection of sensitive lands.
In 2020, the agency will complete the next Regional Transportation Plan update, a document updated every four years that is a roadmap for guiding transportation policy through the year 2045. The theme continues to be Linking Tahoe: Transit, Trails, Technology, and Communities. The number of visitors to the Lake Tahoe Basin continues to grow every year, and those visits continue to stretch our transportation infrastructure to its limits, adversely affecting the quality of life for residents and degrading the visitor experience. Improving the current transit system is a must if we hope to get people out of their cars. Adding more trails that enable people to walk and bike to area attractions while taking advantage of technology like ride-sharing and private micro-transit that supplements mainline transit routes provides more diversity to our transportation options.
Of course, our overarching goal remains to protect Lake Tahoe’s famed water quality and clarity. Fifty years ago, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency came into being to protect Lake Tahoe. In those first 50 years, we’ve made significant strides, including implementing the $2.3 billion Environmental Improvement Program (EIP), funded by federal, state, local governments, and private sources. EIPfunded projects have helped to stabilize clarity levels at the lake. As we enter a new decade, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and our partners remain committed to working together to protect Lake Tahoe for another 50 years.
Bill Yeates is the chair of TRPA’s Governing Board and is the appointee of the California Senate.