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Hearings set on updated regional plan for Tahoe

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Environmental regulators at Lake Tahoe are preparing to release draft proposals amending a regional plan that hasn't been updated in more than two decades — a delay that has caused strained relations between the two states that share Tahoe's scenic wonders.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will hold workshops and public hearings on the measures beginning April 25 and continuing through May.

The goal is to adopt a final blueprint by year's end for balancing development and economic realities with mandates to protect Lake Tahoe's delicate ecosystem and famed clarity.

"It will guide how communities evolve, how ecosystems function, whether the transportation network is effective, and whether the Basin is restored and economically sustainable," TRPA said on its website.

Nevada lawmakers cited the lack of an updated regional plan as one reason for backing a law passed in 2011 that paves the way for Nevada to withdraw from a bistate compact with California unless changes are made to ease regulatory hurdles.

The last regional plan was adopted in 1986, and the focus was on controlling residential growth to curb the degradation of Tahoe.

But with the Tahoe's residential areas essentially built out, the TRPA is now targeting older developments, envisioning mixed-use town centers designed with environmentally sound building practices to reduce runoff that deposits silt into the lake's water, clouding its famed clarity.

Another revision to the plan would give local governments, rather than the TRPA, more control over some permits, though thresholds need to be worked out, said TRPA spokeswoman Kristi Boosman.

"What can we delegate and what needs to remain under the TRPA?" she said. "Those are the kind of balances we're trying to strike."

During legislative hearings last year, critics in Nevada called TRPA a bully and blamed the agency for holding up projects such as paving a driveway, remodeling a bathroom, or removing downed trees from their property.

Nevada officials also criticized California and environmentalists, claiming the liberal leanings of Nevada's western neighbor infringe on the property rights of those along the eastern shore of the Sierra lake.

Nevada's fighting words were met with indignation by some California lawmakers.

Sen. Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat from Sacramento, called Nevada's move to possibly leave the bistate Tahoe Regional Planning Agency "inflammatory" and "provocative," and said Lake Tahoe shouldn't become a "political hostage" to special interest groups.