Nev. gov signs bill recommitting to Tahoe compact

Sandra Chereb, Associated Press

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- The frigid relations between California and Nevada over protecting the cold blue waters of Lake Tahoe warmed Thursday when Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill recommitting the Silver State to the decades-old Tahoe Compact.

SB229 repeals Nevada's threat to leave the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in 2015 and sets a course toward new cooperation over land use management in the scenic Tahoe Basin straddling the two states in the high Sierra.

"Nevada and California have a long history of shared partnerships and this bill will continue that," Sandoval said in a statement. "This new law renews our commitment to work together to do what's best for the environment and economy of the Lake Tahoe region."

What is in the best interest for the environment does not always go hand-in-glove with the best interest for the economy, and it was that disparity that caused the rift between Nevada and California over Lake Tahoe.

The 2011 Nevada Legislature passed a bill paving the way for Nevada to withdraw from the Tahoe Compact enacted by Congress in 1969 to protect the lake's delicate ecology and famed cobalt waters. Nevada blamed California for favoring strict environmental controls that critics said were used to block develop and cripple the economy of a state and region hard hit by the recession.

Nevada also complained about failed efforts to pass a new regional plan that hadn't been updated since the 1980s despite years of debate.

But a new plan was approved in December, a feat that conservationists said Nevada should reward by repealing its threat to abandon the compact. The new regional plan gives local government more control over some development decisions, though local governments are still working out the details. The regional plan also is being challenged in federal court by two environmental groups.

Sandoval's office initially opposed the bill repealing Nevada's threat, but behind the scenes worked with California Gov. Jerry Brown, along with lawmakers from both states, to resolve differences over land use management.

Repeal of Nevada's threat to leave TRPA is contingent on similar legislation being enacted in California before Jan. 1. That bill, SB630, is making its way through the California Legislature.

The states have agreed to recommend to Congress two amendments to the compact. One proposed amendment would clarify that a party challenging the TRPA's regional plan or a regulatory action by the agency has the burden of proof to prevail in court. The other would require that economic factors be considered in planning decisions.