The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency leads the cooperative effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe Region, while improving local communities, and people’s interactions with our irreplaceable environment.
More than a hundred years ago, conservationists voiced concern about the impacts of tourism, ranching, and logging on the Lake Tahoe environment. Their idea to make Lake Tahoe a national forest or national park didn’t gain wide support in Washington D.C., primarily because much of the land in the Basin was already privately owned and had been developed or logged. Even then, many thought it was too late to preserve Lake Tahoe.
But conservationists continued lobbying for environmental protection as logging and ranching waned, ski resorts expanded, and Stateline casinos went high-rise.
The debate came to a climax in the late 1960s after two decades of rapid growth. Plans called for a city the size of San Francisco in the Tahoe Basin with freeways ringing the Lake. Outrage sparked action and the governors and lawmakers in California and Nevada approved a bi-state compact that created a regional planning agency to oversee development at Lake Tahoe. In 1969, the United States Congress ratified the agreement and created the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
The Compact, as revised in 1980, gave TRPA authority to adopt environmental quality standards, called thresholds, and to enforce ordinances designed to achieve the thresholds. The TRPA Governing Board adopted the thresholds in 1982.
The Governing Board adopted a long-range regional plan in April of 1984. The same day, two parties filed suit in federal court claiming they were not convinced the plan would adequately protect the Lake Tahoe environment. The judge effectively ordered a moratorium on new building at Lake Tahoe. The Executive Director of TRPA then called together a consensus group to hammer out another regional plan. After three years of negotiations, the lawsuit was settled and the TRPA Governing Board adopted the 1987 Regional Plan.
TRPA was the first bi-state regional environmental planning agency in the country. The survival of TRPA, despite ongoing controversy over the last 40 years, is a tribute to those who had the vision and the courage to try something that had never been tried before. Preservation of the environment is a cause that is now widely supported by both residents and visitors to the Lake Tahoe Region.
In 2009, TRPA marked its 40th anniversary. The occasion came during a period of great change as well as opportunity at Lake Tahoe—change in the Region’s environment, economy, demographics, and communities.
The Tahoe Region finds itself at a pivotal point in its history where failure to act and to act decisively may result in loss of the Lake’s pristine environment and its famed clarity and the consequent demise of the nearly $5 billion economy that the Lake supports.
Those organizations which do not transform themselves to be successful during these changing times will languish and may not ultimately survive. In recognition of these trends as well as business practices that are no longer serving the Agency, its mission, or the Region well, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has evolved over the last few years to adapt to the growing challenges and to better serve its mission. Because Lake Tahoe is a national and international treasure, TRPA’s effectiveness in fulfilling its mission of environmental protection consistent with effective land use planning and orderly growth and development is of the utmost importance.
TRPA is uniquely positioned at Lake Tahoe to make significant environmental improvements with good land use planning. The Agency along with input from the community and state, federal, and local governments updated the Regional Plan which was adopted on December 12, 2012. The theme of the plan – Restoring Lake Tahoe and Supporting Sustainable Communities – speaks to the intrinsically linked goals of improving lake clarity while improving the quality of life for all who live and visit the Tahoe Basin