Friday, March 18, 2011

Bonanza Column 228: Boulder Bay - Will Reason Prevail?

Continuing our theme of the past couple of weeks, we have another example of a vocal minority trying to advance its agenda regardless of anyone else’s view.

This week the TRPA Governing Board will take what should be the final action to allow the Boulder Bay Project to proceed and actually start building. Since it was first proposed in 2007, the Boulder Bay plan has made change after change in response to concerns from “interested public parties.” In the end, the plan that will go before TRPA on Wednesday will be a huge improvement over the current sight which is both an esthetic and environmental blight, will reduce energy use on the site by 38%, provide alternative-fuel transportation and walkable spaces for guests, transportation and housing for employees, and create an additional 225 jobs. Four traffic studies, each taking a more conservative look than the last, concluded that traffic would decrease.

So everybody wins, right? The objectors got a lot of what they asked for, the project will be built, and all’s well. Not so much. According to last week’s paper, the League to Save Lake continues its vocal opposition as does the so-called North Tahoe Preservation Alliance. It seems that no matter what Boulder Bay does, no matter what study after study says, these groups or at least their putative leaderships will continue to insist that it be done their way or not at all. They’ve blocked progress for four years and one would hope that the TRPA’s passage of the final approval on Wednesday would put the issue to bed and these worthies will move on to other matters.

It’s worth noting that, as usual, it’s the opposition that has been most vocal and has received the most attention in the media. From that you might think that public opinion on the pro side has been weak or non-existent. On the contrary most of the public comment at TRPA hearings has been unabashedly positive as have written comments submitted by people who could not attend the hearings.

There has been a cost to the delays – every day that the current structure exists has environmentally negative effects. For example, a UC Davis study indicated that in a wet year (like this year) some 30,000 pounds of sediment runoff from the site goes into the lake, including fine sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus. This will be reduced by about 90% when Boulder Bay is built.

You understood correctly. These groups, in the name of the environment and their view of what the scenery should be, have been willing to tolerate this kind of environmental damage. If they refuse to accept defeat as seems likely on Wednesday, (there’s a reason detractors call it “The League to Sue Lake Tahoe”), this damage will be prolonged. In what environmental universe does this make sense?

But that’s the problem with our local vocal minorities – whether they’re suing IVGID over the beaches, accusing hard-working IVGID staff of being corrupt, blocking intelligent community planning, or demanding that their view of what’s good for the environment prevail, they always insist that their take on things is so right that it should prevail even in the face of widespread disagreement. Even if they have the best of intentions, and I believe that some (though not all) of them do, their insistence on imposing their will on the community regardless of the public will or of evidence that they are, if not entirely wrong, certainly not entirely right invalidates those intentions.

One respondent to my column last week said “TVP [The Village People] live here TOO!” True, but they’re not the only ones and not the majority by far. It’s interesting to me that while a number of people respond negatively to these columns, none of them seem to have anything to offer except ad hominem attacks and name-calling, but no rational argument except that they’re right and I'm not. Maybe so, but it seems a whole lot more people agree with me than with them. If you do, get out to the TRPA Governing Board meeting at the Chateau on Wednesday afternoon and make yourself heard; if you can’t make it, send them a written comment and let rational heads prevail.

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