By Mark Bruce
Like many residents and visitors of Lake Tahoe, I have had the good fortune of running, hiking, swimming, skiing, dining, lodging and otherwise living in and around Lake Tahoe nearly all of my life. Tahoe has played a vital role in the development of my most treasured relationship, with my wife Lisa, where we both learned to care for much more than ourselves, and where we were married 25 years ago on the west shore.
Over the years, Lake Tahoe’s spirit has inspired us to find, nurture and protect many other vital and beautiful Tahoe relationships, beyond just family, friends, and careers. Lake Tahoe possesses a spirit so spectacular that it commands us to think more about nature and community than ourselves. Lake Tahoe requires engagement in community projects, local government, and non-profit ventures to honor its legacy. It is a place where commitment, sacrifice–and yes, great enjoyment–forge dramatic relationships with other partners of the ecosystem, including trails, streams, coves, meadows, and sugar pine stands.
For the past eight years, as a member of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Governing Board, I have watched Executive Director Joanne Marchetta forge a unified Lake Tahoe. The agency has become a positive unifying force for all stakeholders, bringing together two states and local and regional leaders to solve longstanding problems and emerging threats. I am grateful to serve among an army of Tahoe stewards. Collective stakeholder efforts encourage thoughtful policy making by the TRPA board, award-winning planning and implementation by TRPA staff, and a fully engaged community capable of just about anything for the sake of Lake Tahoe. As I step into the role of Board Chair, I have the utmost appreciation for the positive momentum and personal commitment within and surrounding all of us.
While we have unprecedented momentum, we also face unprecedented challenges. Climate change exacerbates nearly every challenge ahead of us: invasive species, transportation, water quality, and forest health. In terms of invasive species, the growth of aquatic weeds in the Tahoe Keys lagoons will heighten significantly as temperatures continue to rise. The massive infestation is becoming a source for weed growth in other parts of the lake and it can only be solved with strong partnerships. We must act on this threat with urgency, especially in the Tahoe Keys.
Of all our priorities, transportation issues are top of mind right now. Strategic and innovative improvements to our transportation system will help reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gases, increase recreation access, and improve air and water quality. Prioritizing key environmental improvement projects and finding regional transportation revenue are most critical to our success. We will rely heavily on stakeholder trust and collaboration to achieve our objectives.
Climate change is also impacting forest health and increases the threat of catastrophic wildfire at Lake Tahoe. In the face of prolonged drought and decreasing snowpack, we must adapt our forest management strategies. My hope is that the community will join me in supporting large-scale forest management projects like the proposed 59,000-acre Lake Tahoe West Restoration Partnership that will reduce fuels across major swaths of Lake Tahoe’s West Shore. Approval of this and similar projects will make the forest safer and more resilient to drought and other effects of climate change.
Thanks to all our stakeholders, we are on a good path and are primed to succeed. In just the last few years, TRPA unanimously adopted the Shoreline Plan, streamlined the Development Rights system, and approved the Tahoe South Events Center and Highway 50 South Shore Community Revitalization projects. Even throughout the pandemic, TRPA staff has stepped up and continued their outstanding work from permitting, to watercraft inspections, to delivering a groundbreaking regional transportation plan—all while working remotely.
As we begin the new year, we will also benefit from new perspectives. At our Governing Board meeting this month, we will welcome two new Nevada board members, incoming Washoe County Commissioner Alexis Hill and newly appointed Nevada At-Large representative Hayley Williamson. I am excited about the strategic and technical contributions they will make to the board and look forward with confidence to the selection of any new California board members later this year.
There is beauty and goodness in our work at Lake Tahoe. I invite our leaders, our residents, and our visitors to continue our positive momentum and relationships into the future for the great benefit of Lake Tahoe.
Mark Bruce is the newly elected Chair of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board