Nevada Drops TRPA Pullout Initiative

By Brian L. Covert
Tribune Staff Writer

Nevada legislators have agreed to avert a pullout of the bistate Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and back the TRPA full force in its lawsuit with the California attorney general’s office.

The decision was made late Monday night, as TRPA board members, state legislators and Nevada Gov. Richard Bryan met in Carson City to discuss settlement of the lawsuit, which has halted construction in the Lake Tahoe basin.

“The thing I was most concerned about was pulling out of the agency entirely,” said Tony Clark, a Nevada TRPA delegate who was at Monday’s meeting with the governor. “The middle ground was defending the lawsuit and staying in the agency, but fixing the (regional) plan ourselves.”

It was one year ago today that U.S. District Court Judge Edward Garcia extended a halt to building in the Tahoe basin. The court injunction followed a lawsuit by the California attorney general’s office and the pro-environment League to Save Lake Tahoe, charging that the TRPA’s regional plan did not protect the basin’s environment.

Pro-development advocates in the basin and in the Nevada legislature have since opposed the building moratorium, as well as the California attorney general’s role in the recent lawsuit talks with the TRPA.

Until Monday night, Assemblyman Louis Bergevin, R-Gardnerville, had been the main supporter for the Nevada withdrawal with his pullout bill, AB 59. Bergevin also warned that he would freeze Nevada’s part of the TRPA budget if [Nevada] Gov. Bryan vetoed the bill as promised.

Bergevin says he now feels “fairly comfortable” with aborting the pullout bill in exchange for a continued lawsuit between the TRPA and the attorney general’s office and the league.

“We just had to get some kind of message to the agency,” Bergevin said. “This has not been an exercise in futility at all. We have the governor on our side.”

Nevada TRPA delegates will bring the proposal before the TRPA’s litigation committee Thursday and again to the agency’s governing board on May 10.

On May 15, the agency will seek an appeal of Judge Garcia’s court injunction in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, said Clark.

The lawsuit negotiations will be based on the regional plan drafted before the lawsuit, said Roland Westergard, another Nevada delegate to the board.

Westergard said in addition to dropping the pullout and backing a continued lawsuit, Nevada representatives are calling for the state to continue funding for the bistate agency and to support the TRPA in completing its regional plan.

California Attorney General John Van de Kamp is planning to meet soon with Gov. Bryan on Nevada’s position, said Richard Skinner, deputy attorney general.

Skinner, representing the attorney general’s office in the lawsuit talks, said Nevada’s latest response is “perfectly appropriate. It doesn’t resolve any problems, but it’s gratifying to see that Nevada is behind the agency.”

“Maybe this is just the best solution — to let the courts decide,” Skinner said.

Tom Mertens, director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said the league stands by its lawsuit against the agency, but that “we would have preferred to settle out of court.”

Curtis [“Dirty Tricks”] Patrick, spokesman for the pro-development Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, said the council stands by Nevada’s proposal.

“It seems that the only way that we’re going to succeed on behalf of property owners is in court,” Patrick said.