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Classified in: Environment
Subjects: NPT, LAW, SVY, ENI

Tahoe Conservation Groups File Lawsuit Against Placer County Challenging it to Prepare Required Environmental Impact Report

Proposed Tahoe Basin Area Plan fails to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

AUBURN, Calif., Nov. 29, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Friends of West Shore, TahoeCleanAir.org, and North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, ("Conservation Groups") filed a lawsuit against Placer County, CA for failing to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in approving new amendments to its Tahoe Basin Area Plan ("TBAP"). 

The lawsuit is necessary to protect Lake Tahoe, safeguard the interests and safety of Placer County residents and nearby Tahoe communities, which rely on limited infrastructure, and to maintain environmental and safety impact transparency surrounding important code amendments that will materially change the Tahoe environment.

Placer County adopted the amendments to its 2016-developed Tahoe Basin Area Plan Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on October 31, 2023, using an addendum process to CEQA rather than a Subsequent EIR, which is required because of the numerous changes and increased safety threats that have occurred since 2016.

The Conservation Groups contend that Placer County has an obligation to prepare a subsequent (EIR) for the amendments to the TBAP as required by Public Resources Code section 21166 and CEQA Guidelines, section 15162(a).

"The human carrying capacity in the Tahoe Basin is already beyond strained and is at a breaking point," said Tobi Tyler, Sierra Club, Tahoe Area Group, "with the Lake's nearshore water quality severely impaired with algae and cyanobacteria blooms, microplastic levels in the lake higher than even in the ocean gyres, lead levels along with other toxic materials in the lake's waters surpassing the EPA-approved limit by more than 2,500 times, a new aquatic invasive species ? the New Zealand mud snail ? found in Lake Tahoe, and a trash problem that is now infamous around the world such that travel guides are warning the public to stay away. This and more underscore the need for urgent action from Placer County."

North Tahoe Preservation Alliance President Ann Nichols, stated: "Rather than protect and preserve a national treasure, the focus, with the help of developers and their lobbyists, seems to be on finding new ways to build out the Basin in service of attracting more and more people to come here. If Placer County truly cares about protecting the environment and the impacted community's public safety, and not just developer profit margins, it will act now to prepare an EIR. Placer County has so far refused, only providing an environmental checklist. The County has ignored thousands of pages of public comment during hearings. Now it's time for a judge to decide."

Friends of West Shore added: "Placer is relying on the outdated 2016 Environmental Impact Report completed for the TBAP (and 2012 analysis for the Regional Plan that guides the Area Plans). However, CEQA requires additional comprehensive analysis when circumstances have changed, there are new or significant environmental effects or additional mitigation measures that could be adopted to mitigate impacts but were declined. Community and local conditions such as traffic, wildfire danger and its spread, and visitor populations have dramatically changed since 2016. In addition, different large development projects are now on the table. The TBAP must be considered in this updated context," said Judith Tornese, FOWS President.

However, the Addendum fails to analyze new and more severe impacts associated with the amendments, including:

Underscoring the evacuation crisis, Doug Flaherty, a retired fire battalion chief, and TahoeCleanAir.org President, said, "Government officials have demonstrated that they prefer to ignore or punt the creation of a critically needed data-driven roadway by roadway evacuation capacity evaluation, even though fire agencies have stated that 'we have a long way to go to protect the Tahoe Basin and our citizens with fuel reduction and evacuation planning.'" Flaherty went on to say, "No data-driven, worst-case fire evacuation capacity based plan currently exists. Communities are gravely concerned about the current unsafe gridlock on our two-lane roads which will only be exacerbated by these amendments making evacuations that much more difficult."

SOURCE North Tahoe Preservation Alliance

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