Nevada Wins Tahoe Dispute

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Saturday legislation that renews and alters the Lake Tahoe development pact between California and Nevada. The announcement can be considered a victory for Nevada, since the state threatened to withdraw from the pact unless California eased its environmental regulations and became more open to development—a course that the new legislation embraced.

Brown, in a statement, said, “Today, California reaffirmed its longstanding partnership with the state of Nevada to protect and enhance the beauty of Lake Tahoe.”

Nevada Gov. Mark Sandoval, in the same statement, said that the bill is just part of California and Nevada’s long tradition of working together on issues related to Lake Tahoe.

“Lake Tahoe truly is the Jewel of the Sierra and with the signing of this law both states can continue to ensure the protection of the environment and help enhance the economy of the region,” Sandoval said.

Beyond the friendly statements, though, was a gritty political battle. The Los Angeles Times explained the basic contours:

Almost as long as California and Nevada have shared Lake Tahoe’s pricey shoreline, the two states have harbored competing visions of how best to prosper from the region’s stunning natural beauty while preserving the lake’s deep-azure color and remarkable clarity.

At times, the disputes have flared into what Joanne Marchetta, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, describes as a ‘red-hot crucible for debate and dissonance.

Earlier, CalWatchdog explained how, as California veered further to the left, a rift grew between the two states about how to handle development. The changing relationship prompted an interstate political battle:

 […]As time passed, officials in Nevada grew impatient with California’s approach to the pact. Nevada wasn’t angry about a specific incident; rather, the problem was about broader issues surrounding development. Nevada officials, who were inherently more skeptical of overregulation than officials in California, wanted the interstate agency that makes decisions about development to take economic considerations into account. California didn’t.

This caused a major rift between the two states, and Nevada threatened to pull out of the agreement with its more liberal neighbor. In fact, Nevada threatened to do so over half a dozen times. In 2010, the frustration reached a boiling point, and it appeared that Nevada was finally going to walk away from the agency—and develop its side of Tahoe however it wanted.

For Nevada, the threat was perfectly timed.

After Nevada threatened to pull out, California took their considerations more seriously. To the environmentalists that often influence Brown and the Democrat’s policy thinking, it was better to capitulate on some demands throughout the lake, rather than allowing the Nevada side to become an economic free-for-all.

After negotiations between the two states, Sandoval got most of what he wanted from Brown. An environmental activist told the Los Angeles Times that environmental interests “got rolled” by Nevada’s maneuvering.

And so the bill was signed into law.

Naturally, any politician signing a bill will declare a victory. But Brown’s hand was forced, and the pact’s new conditions were far from optimal (from his view). It was, no doubt, a loss for Brown. Perhaps that’s why he signed the bill on a Saturday, typically the slowest news day of the week.

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Tags assigned to this article:
Brian SandovalJerry BrownAdam O'NealLake Tahoe

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