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Lake Tahoe Basin Best Management Practices (BMPs)

by Tom Smith, TCPOA Board Member
reprinted from the Winter 2006 Tahoma Tattler

Is your Tahoma property in compliance? If not, you should really read this article.

What are BMPs? How do they affect Tahoe Cedars property owners? What is the "penalty" structure for noncompliance?

In 1969 the U. S. Congress ratified the bi-state agreement between California and Nevada creating the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA). The Compact as revised and adopted in 1982 gave TRPA the authority to adopt environmental quality standards and enforce ordinances designed to achieve the thresholds established in the regulations. One aspect includes water quality in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Over the past 40 to 50 years the clarity of Lake Tahoe has been decreasing at an alarming rate. One primary reason is sediment and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus carried by runoff entering the lake.

Current TRPA regulations require all homeowners in the Tahoe Basin to retrofit and maintain their properties with "Best Management Practices" (BMPs). These practices are structural (meaning they are permanent) and include paved driveways, parking pads, infiltration trenches (below roof drip lines and along driveways), as well as dry wells, adequate vegetation or ground cover and stabilized slopes in order to capture sediment and nutrients before they leave your property. The scope and size of some or all of the above methods vary from property to property and should be calculated carefully to insure compliance.

TRPA has divided the land area of the Tahoe Basin into three priority watersheds. Priorities are based in part on topography, soil erodibility, soil type, proximity to streams, etc. Properties in the Tahoe Cedars subdivision are within the priority II watershed. The deadline to install BMPs in Tahoe Cedars is October 15, 2006.

With the deadline rapidly approaching for our area, time is of the essence. Waiting until this summer to schedule a property evaluation or schedule work such as paving may be a problem because of the number of people trying to get similar activities completed at the same time.

The Tahoe Cedars Property Owners Board urges all Tahoma property owners who do not hold a "Certificate of Completion" from TRPA to begin the BMP implementation process as soon as possible.

In May of 2002, the TRPA Governing Board adopted a streamlined BMP enforcement procedure. In a nut shell: after a deadline for a specific watershed area, noncompliance for one year could result in a $1000 fine, noncompliance for two years a $2500 fine and three years a $4000 fine. In addition the TRPA web site regarding enforcement, indicates there could be civil penalties levied if property owners fail to respond to a "Notice of Failure to Implement Water Quality Protection Measure" which could be sent by TRPA anytime after a watershed deadline where BMPs are not installed on a property.

As Tahoe Cedars property owners, our best resource to find out what each of us needs to do to comply with the regulation is to call the Tahoe Resource Conservation District. This organization created by the California Legislature is a non-regulatory body established to provide free assistance with design and installation techniques for BMPs (they will not do the actual work). Please note: free assistance may expire October 15, 2006. Remember, this is a non-regulatory, non-governmental group providing free evaluation and direction from a trusted source. By law the District is bound to work with homeowners in strict confidentiality. No fines, no regulations, no gimmicks, they are not part of TRPA. At the moment the District has a waiting list for on site evaluations, so call early and get on the list.

For property owners with access to the internet you can get more detailed information than we can provide in this newsletter. The web address for the Tahoe Resource Conservation District is http://tahoercd.org. The TRPA web site is another information resource at www.tahoebmp.org or type in "Lake Tahoe Best Management Practices" in Google and you will have many choices on the subject.

For those who would just like to cut to the chase and get moving, please call the Tahoe Resource Conservation District hotline at 530-543-1501 ext. 113. A representative will return your call to provide additional information and/or schedule an appointment with you to evaluate your property and make the necessary recommendations.

Even if you think you are in compliance, if you do not have a "BMP Certificate of Completion" issued by TRPA, the District suggests you proceed with an evaluation so you can properly file your application with TRPA for a Certificate with the District's assistance. This will also give you an opportunity to understand how your BMPs function and how to maintain them.

One final point: as the technician at the District told me, BMPs are more than gravel trenches, lawns and holes in the ground filled with rock to capture and infiltrate water. Designs can be quite creative. As long as the design meets the requirements of the law a homeowner has a lot of freedom. If cost is an issue, designs can be quite simple. The Tahoe Resource Conservation District staff is ready to assist.

Minor portions of this article were taken directly from the Tahoe Resource Conservation District website with permission from the technician interviewed.

-Tom Smith, TCPOA Board Member

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