Tahoe's regional plan legally challenged by environmental groups

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Tahoe's regional plan legally challenged by environmental groups

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Photo by Frank Schulenburg from Wikimedia Commons.

The federal agency that oversees Lake Tahoe will be back in court defending its plan for the basin against a group of environmentalists.

This is the latest chapter in the ongoing legal challenge over the future of development and conservation at the lake. Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled against the Sierra Club and the Friends of the West Shore's challenge to the updated regional plan. Now they're appealing that ruling.

Wendy Park is with Earthjustice, which is representing the environmental groups. She contends the plan has too many incentives for development, doesn't have enough enforcement mechanisms, and the impacts it will have upon lake clarity haven't been studied well enough.

"This plan sets a course for the agency to concentrate development around the lake in certain areas, and the agency should be looking at those impacts right now before it approves the plan, rather than delaying the study of those impacts until later on down the road," Park says.

Earthjustice has just filed its notice of appeal. The case will now go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Jeff Cowen with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency says the earlier ruling came down strongly in their favor and this appeal won't halt their implementation of the plan.

"The initial court ruling showed that we made all of the decisions based on a very sound record and we had the authority to make the descretionary findings that we did, but essentially this is not a development plan," Cowen says.

Among many things, Cowen says the updated plan looks to consolidate development to the urban centers and improve old properties that are contributing to pollution.

Currently, local governments around the lake are also adopting their smaller scale plans for development, which some environmentalist say delegate too much control to local interests.

This latest appeal could take upwards of a year to resolve.