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Lake Tahoe’s Shores Would Change, Including More Piers, Under New Proposal

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The way people play along Lake Tahoe's 72 miles of shoreline could change this year.

The latest iteration of the Tahoe Shoreline Plan comes out Tuesday. The proposal would add 138 piers, of which 10 are public.

"We've been trying to come up with a plan that can be broadly supported by environmental groups at a Lake Tahoe, but also the recreation folks, the people who want to get out on the lake,” said Tom Lotshaw, with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, or TRPA, which is behind the sixth version of the proposal.

The plan would lift a prohibition on new shoreline structures such as ramps and buoys, but at the same time keeps a 600-foot "no wake zone" around the lake, which would extend to include all of Emerald Bay.

“The thinking there is to really try and prevent shoreline erosion,” Lotshaw said.

He says the plan would also relocate buildings from environmentally sensitive areas where streams flow into the lake. Existing marinas could become categorized as “clean marinas” if steps to to control invasive species and pollution are taken, according to the plan.

Lotshaw says things like piers and docks can have an impact on what it’s like to kayak or paddleboard on the lake “in terms of scenic beauty and how that’s impacted by all these structures.

“There’s really a host of elements that come together to make it a difficult planning area,” he said.

The Tahoe Shoreline Plan was last updated in 1987, and Lotshaw’s group has regulated the shoreline since 1976. Updates to the ordinance were attempted six times from 1995 to today, but all failed due to criticisms and lawsuits over issues like hazards to the environment.

“This historically has been a very controversial planning area,” Lotshaw said. “Some folks would like to see no new structures at Lake Tahoe, while others would like to see significantly more. What we did this time that’s different is pull together a broader collaborative process to work through this.”

The League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Club sued in 2010, resulting in an ordinance only allowing extensions or modifications of existing piers or buoys. In the latest plan, The League to Save lake Tahoe, residents and other groups have all helped form the draft regulations during 26 meetings since the start of 2016.

The public has until July 9 to comment on the draft before a final environmental review and a vote are taken later this fall or winter. If it’s accepted, it would also include two new public boat ramps, and more than 2,100 boat slips and buoys.

The plan also takes into consideration future droughts with its low-lake adaptation strategies, like how to manage docks when lake levels drop.

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