Sues to Protect Lake Tahoe
A Shared Vision Betrayed
There once was a shared vision for the future of Tahoe. From it emerged an agreement between California and Nevada, it was called the Bi-State Compact. The agreement noted that “increasing urbanization is threatening the ecological values of the region and threatening the public opportunities for use of the public land.”
To protect what the Compact called Lake Tahoe’s ”unique environmental and ecological values,” the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) was established. TRPA developed “environmental threshold carrying capacities” (environmental thresholds) and “environmental standards necessary to maintain a significant scenic, recreational, educational, scientific or natural value of the region.”
Today TRPA has not yet attained many of the environmental thresholds. Lake clarity fluctuates from year to year, but has generally worsened over time. But to a degree TRPA has been able to constrain development. However, in the process of updating its Regional Plan, TRPA lost sight of its mission. It would seize on the opportunity to dramatically increase development at the lake.
Abandoning its mission to protect the lake, TRPA seemed to adopt the mantra that what's good for business is good for Tahoe. The new Regional Plan would accelerate construction activity; it would grant the development of 3,200 more residential units and 200,000 additional square feet of commercial space than was previously allowed. It would open up 300 acres of open space to new “resort recreation” development. It would encourage dense urban villages around the lake, with large buildings and more impervious surfaces. No matter that doing so would compromise Tahoe’s scenic beauty and increase the runoff of urban pollutants, clouding Tahoe’s iconic blue waters.
The Sierra Club made our concerns known throughout the process. We wrote lengthy and detailed comment letters and gave public testimony at every opportunity. Our concerns were ignored. While TRPA proclaimed that it took seriously the input from all stakeholders, the Sierra Club was excluded from the stakeholder group that negotiated the final plan. At the end of the day we could only conclude that TRPA had betrayed the shared vision of the Bi-State Compact, and we were left with no other option but a lawsuit.
On a visit in 1873 John Muir described Tahoe as “the queen of lakes.” He wrote to a friend that he had "sauntered through the piney woods, pausing countless times to absorb the blue glimpses of the lake, all so heavenly clean, so terrestrial yet so openly spiritual." He wrote that, "The soul of Indian summer is brooding this blue water, and it enters one's being as nothing else does ... I am reminded of all the mountain lakes I ever knew, as if this were a kind of water heaven to which they all had come." [Letters to a Friend, 1915]
Read our press release on our lawsuit here.
Sacramento County fails to give up
on the sprawl paradigm
Sierra Club mounts a legal challenge to Cordova Hills
Earlier this year Sacramento County supervisors approved the Cordova Hills project with 2,700 acre project with 8,000 homes and 1.3 million square feet of shopping, placing it outside the footprint of existing development, demonstrating its unwillingness to give up the disastrous growth paradigm that has helped fuel traffic congestion, air pollution and the loss of habitat and farmland. In addition, Sacramento County
showed disdain for the Sustainable Communities Strategy, a compact approach to growth developed by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to help reduce the region’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Cordova Hills was not only opposed by conservation groups,
but also by the Sacramento Bee. (photo: Randy Bench, Sac Bee)
Subsequent to the supervisors’ 4-1 vote to approve the project (with Phil Serna the lone dissenter), on March 1, 2013 the Sierra Club and the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) filed a lawsuit challenging the approval of Cordova Hills. If you are interested in making a financial contribution to help this lawsuit, please
see instructions here. If you have any questions email email@example.com
The Mother Lode Chapter includes 11
local Sierra Club groups
in 24 California counties
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