By Mark F. Bruce
Even with a light haze of wildfire smoke creeping into the Tahoe Basin, the joys of summer in Tahoe are in full swing. Following a challenging couple of years full of wildfire, evacuations, severe smoke, and pandemic unease, we have a lot to be grateful for. I hope you will take some time this summer to enjoy the lake for the gift that it is.
I have had the chance lately to reflect on the beauty of Tahoe and of the time I have served as the Nevada Governor’s representative on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Governing Board. I’ve had the honor of serving on the board since 2013 and, in that time, have seen extraordinary progress and partnership building for the sake and betterment of the lake and its communities.
I joined the board on the heels of quite an uncertain time for Tahoe. The bi-state partnership had just narrowly survived dissolution, saved by passage of the long overdue Regional Plan Update on December 12, 2012. The new direction of the plan recommitted the states to the Bi-State TRPA Compact and ushered in an era of renewed partnership in the basin. The tenets of the plan emphasize more flexibility for property owners, restoration incentives to remove blighted development, and greater participation by local governments—all things that were sorely needed to move the region forward.
Healthy debates on a myriad of issues continued, of course, but through respect, open-mindedness, and grace we have overcome sensitive and deep-rooted disagreement to find common ground and protect the natural resources we all cherish. New projects stimulating significant environmental benefits like the Tahoe South Event Center and Tahoe City Lodge were unanimously approved by the 15-member board. And following years of consensus-building by TRPA, we approved new shoreline ordinances in 2018 to manage moorings, piers, and boating impacts. In addition to stronger habitat protections, the Shoreline Plan strengthened no-wake zones and buoy registration programs to improve recreation and safety.
I am also proud of the agency’s work with fire agency partners to improve forest health. With tireless backing by the Governing Board’s Forest Health and Wildfire Committee, TRPA has implemented recommendations of the Bi-State Tahoe Basin Fire Commission report which arose from circumstances surrounding the 2007 Angora Fire. In partnership with the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, the agency has streamlined permit processes for fuel reduction and defensible space projects and approved the expanded use of mechanical forestry equipment in the basin to help increase the pace and scale of forest health projects. These efforts assisted our heroic firefighters save Lake Tahoe communities from last year’s Caldor Fire. As we enjoy the beauty of Tahoe’s forests today, please recognize their fragility and work to protect that gift.
As I leave the Governing Board, I wish to welcome Governor Sisolak’s new appointee, Jessica Diss, who will begin serving the board this month. And I would be remiss not to mention the departure of my dear friend and colleague Executive Director Joanne Marchetta. Her diligent and heartfelt leadership has transformed TRPA’s culture into one defined by partnership and collaboration, which I am optimistic will serve as a foundational force in the basin for decades to come.
I sincerely thank my fellow board members, TRPA staff and other stewards of the basin for fighting—with respect, open-mindedness, and grace—to find the common ground necessary to protect and restore the lake and improve its communities. Tahoe is a gift that we cannot take for granted.
–Mark Bruce is immediate-past Chairperson of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board