SB 271 seeks a stronger Nevada voice in the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact.
Nevada Senate Bill (SB) 271 provides for withdrawal of the State of Nevada from the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Compact should three central issues not be addressed in a specified timeframe.
Leo Drozdoff, Director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources summarized the three issues as follows: voting structure at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Governing Board, recognition of economics in decision-making at the Lake, and the Tahoe Regional Plan document. This legislation is not the first to call into question the agreement that binds Nevada and California together through the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. This is the seventh time—in the 40 years of the Compact—such a bill has come before the Nevada legislature.
SB 271 has drawn much attention and there have been many interpretations of its intent during the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature. Not least among the concerns is whether Nevada abdicates sovereignty over its lands, and whether the State relinquishes its ability to meet the needs of its citizens, by being party to the Compact in its current form. At the June 1sthearing before the Assembly Government Affairs Committee, Ross Miller, Secretary of State, proposed changes to the voting structure of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Governing Board as a means to fortify the Nevada delegation’s role in decision-making. He articulated, “I believe that withdrawing from the Compact doesn’t make any sense. We need shared vision between the two states to make environmental progress. I do support focusing on the real problem, which is the voting structure of the TRPA Governing Board. The current structure is too restrictive to allow the environmental gains that we need.” Roger Wittenberg, CEO of Boulder Bay said that the “environmental gains needed (at the Lake)” involve “significant re-engineering of properties” and that “anything that can be done to reduce uncertainty for redevelopment proposals will be an improvement”.
In defense of the Compact and the TRPA, Assemblywoman Pierce stated, “The basic idea behind the TRPA Compact is that the people of the United States wanted to see the Lake cleaned up and preserved. In the last 18 months it appears that the clarity of the Lake is leveling off (the decline is slowing). It has taken time but The TRPA is being successful in doing what the American people want it to do.” Dr. Sudeep Chandra with the University of Nevada Reno spoke in favor of “the current (governance) model” stating, “The agency’s unique region-wide authority has enabled it to be proactive in addressing the pressing needs of the environment,” citing the TRPA role in combating aquatic invasive species (see [link to AIS]). He spoke further in regard to the proposed withdrawal of Nevada from the Compact saying, “In terms of progress on environmental issues, systems with multi-state governance structure tend to fare better,” referencing the work of Elinor Ostrom the 2009 Nobel Memorial prizewinner in Economic Sciences.
While proponents and opponents of the bill agreed on some key points, such as the pressing need for discussion between the states and a new Regional Plan, opinion diverged about whether the legislative session was the appropriate venue for discussion of these issues. Proponents of the bill did not speak of a possible Nevada withdrawal from the Compact as desirable. They advocated for a thorough review of current structures around the Compact, proposed means of enacting desired changes, and discussed whether the conversation now occurring between the two states as a result of this legislation can be productive absent the “hammer” of a potential Nevada withdrawal from the Compact. Opponents of the bill agreed with Kyle Davis of the Nevada Conservation League who stated, “An interim committee already exists that is the proper place for vetting a decision of this magnitude and these issues should be considered in that venue.”
All who spoke at the hearing talked about protection of the Lake as being of utmost importance and the top priority. Proponents and opponents of the bill agreed that there is urgent need for a new Regional Plan document. The bill was proposed as a mechanism to reassert the role of the State of Nevada in decision-making at the Lake. Thus far, during the Nevada legislative session, it has been successful in promoting discussion toward that end.
Assembly, SB 271 Meeting Exhibits
Hearing on SB 271 Nevada Senate Government Affairs Committee, Joanne Marchetta, TRPA Director Testimony
Sierra Sun, Representative McClintock supports Nevada SB 271, labels TRPA ‘huge inhibitor of economic growth
SFGate, Senators vote to give Nevada a way out of TRPA
The Nevada Spectator, Audio: Interview with Executive Director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe