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Court ruling slows development on Lake Tahoe

Environmentalists are applauding a decision this week by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency acted improperly by not analyzing the boat pollution impacts for boat mooring buoys in the lake and it must do so before it can approve other lake development.

The planning agency, however, is touting the ruling as favorable as it also allows the agency discretion about how to determine its baseline measurement of buoys on the lake.

The agency’s shore-zone regulations, adopted in 2008, set development caps on new buoys and piers and established mitigation measures, making the new rules more protective than previous ordinances. The intent was to better manage the already-existing 768 piers and approximately 4,500 buoys on the lake today while capping future additional development, according to the agency.

“We appreciate the court’s respect for the agency’s expertise in determining how best to identify critical environmental impacts,” Joanne Marchetta, executive director of the planning agency, said in a statement. “We need to take into account the reality on the ground when analyzing the effects of our policies.”

In November 2008, conservation groups filed suit against the planning agency to force a proper environmental review of the agency’s shoreline development plan. In 2011, a federal district court judge sided with conservationists and overturned the plan.

“This case is about protecting Lake Tahoe from thousands of additional boats before we first know how adding all of these boats will impact the lake,” Carl Young, of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said in a statement. “More buoys mean more boats, which mean more boat pollution impacts. A typical speedboat is hundreds of times more polluting than a Subaru vehicle.”

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