After participating in a meeting today with TRPA consultant, Leah Kaufman and TRPA representative, Abby O’Keefe, what I have learned about the new TRPA Shorezone Plan is that there are still a lot of unanswered questions. A multitude of questions regarding the permitting of new and existing moorings (boat houses, boat lifts and buoys) in Lake Tahoe were offered, many times the response being, “I don’t think that the TRPA has yet considered that scenario”. It appears that there will be many scenarios regarding the permitting of moorings that are unique and may not fit under general rules allowing the permitting of moorings.
What we do know is that Phase 1 of the Shorezone Plan is a go, which in a nutshell is the plan in place for permitting of allowed existing buoys and for pier expansions. What we don’t know is the fate of Phase 2 of the Shorezone Plan which covers the potential for new buoys, new piers and new boatlifts. There are still some lawsuits that need to be settled prior to revealing the details of Phase 2.
As it stands, the TRPA approved new shorezone regulations, called Alternative 6A. The delay in implementation stems from the fact that there is a current lawsuit in the Federal Court in Sacramento by the League to Save Lake Tahoe in conjunction with the Tahoe Area Sierra Club and the Tahoe Lakefront Property Owners Association (TLPOA). The League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Area Sierra Club are on opposite sides of the issue with the TLPOA. The dispute involves issues relating to mitigation measures as stated in the environmental document as well as restrictions on the number of allowed buoys and piers. The current plan allows for 128 new piers (5/year) and a TOTAL of 6316 moorings on Lake Tahoe.
Judge Carlton in Sacramento has been assigned to the case. He has allowed processing of permits to continue, but no construction or installation of new buoys or piers. So, yes, what this means is that you may have a pier permit from the TRPA to build a pier but you are not allowed to build the pier…yet. The court case is set for the Spring of 2010. Under consideration are the 5 new piers chosen by the TRPA last January to continue the permitting process.
The Shorezone ordinance allows 6316 TOTAL moorings (which include boatlifts, boat houses, buoys) at a $175.00/year inspection fee. The cap on the number of buoys alone is 4454 buoys. The new Shorezone ordinance will allow you to trade a buoy for a boatlift…beware, however, that it may not be a straight-across- the-board trade. The TRPA will probably also require you to do some visual screening, etc., while they have you wrapped around their fingers!
Phase 1 Lake Tahoe buoy application deadline was October 15, 2009 for all buoys on Lake Tahoe that were grandfathered in as of 1972 or were previously permitted by State Lands, TRPA and/or Army Corps of Engineers.
To date, 500 buoys currently in Lake Tahoe have been identified by the TRPA as illegal. In the Spring of 2010, the TRPA will require that either the floats or the concrete blocks with the floats be removed (they have not yet decided). 150 of the buoy applications submitted to the TRPA are on hold due to littoral rights issues, mainly located in Placer County.
As of October 15, 2009, the following applications were submitted (numbers are approximate):
- Buoys 3273
- Boathouses 54
- Boatlifts 275
- Total Moorings 3602
- Phase II would allow for an additional 2714 moorings, 1181 of those being buoys.
Phase II would be for buoys that were not grandfathered in or permitted plus new moorings (2714). Phase II, as I mentioned above, is currently on hold due to litigation and the adoption of the “Blue Boating Program”. In a nutshell, the Blue Boating Program is a more extensive inspection of every boat that launches on Lake Tahoe, including inspection of the engine, bilge, muffler and pumps for invasive species along with noise and air quality monitoring. There appears to be some concern about invasive species in the lake (milfoil, clams, mussels to name a few) and the Tahoe Restoration Act will likely be throwing millions of dollars in an effort to mitigate these issues.
There is one other issue that will be discussed at the December 16 TRPA Governing Board Meeting regarding the distance of the buoys from the high water line at the shoreline. The current TRPA Code requires buoys to be located within 350 feet of the high-water line, although more than 50% of buoys in Lake Tahoe exceed the 350’ limitation (some as far out as 1000’!). At the TRPA Governing Board Meeting, a buoy line extension to 600’ will be discussed.
January 15, 2010 is the deadline for Pier Permitting Applications. The TRPA will select 5 new piers based on criteria such as the number of parcels sharing the pier and the linear feet of lake frontage retired. Don’t hold your breath on these permits, however. The TRPA is so busy with buoys that they may be requesting a year delay.
A question came up in the meeting regarding modifications of existing piers. On the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, pier extensions and modifications are being allowed if a lakefront property owner meets the criteria. On the California side of Lake Tahoe, however, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is involved in an effort to protect certain ‘spawning’ areas. So there may be some prohibition from Lahontan.