Sandra Chereb / The Associated Press

Former Vice President Al Gore, left, confers with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid during the Lake Tahoe Summit on Monday. The event heralded the renewed agreement between California and Nevada on governance of the basin.

Brown blasts environmentalist challenge of Tahoe pact

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 - 10:26 am

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – Three months after California Gov. Jerry Brown and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval reached an agreement on the governance of the basin surrounding Lake Tahoe, the governors praised the accord here Monday, and Brown fired back at environmentalists who fear it will lead to more development.

"This is the same group that's criticizing the Delta restoration plan, and a whole bunch of other things we're doing," the Democratic governor told reporters at the Lake Tahoe Summit. "Trying to be absolutely perfect means you don't get anything done."

Brown said California has to work with Nevada and other groups and that, "It isn't just what some Sierra Club chapter around Tahoe wants."

Brown and Sandoval announced earlier this year they would continue the two-state partnership known as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, after Nevada passed a law in 2011 in which it would have withdrawn from the compact unless California made concessions to allow more development.

The Sierra Club and other environmentalists filed a lawsuit in federal court, objecting, among other things, to a provision of the accord that would delegate many planning decisions to local governments.

The plan update "revises and loosens standards by which new projects are reviewed and approved, while increasing the potential for new development throughout the region," the environmentalists said in their filing in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

Brown's remarks could strain his already difficult relationship with environmentalists, who have objected to his proposals to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act and to exempt some projects in California from its review.

Brown joined Sandoval, former Vice President Al Gore and other politicians under light drizzle on the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe for the 17th annual Lake Tahoe Summit at Sand Harbor State Park.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the environmentalists' lawsuit was a regrettable obstacle to progress in the region, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he called the Sierra Club and asked them not to sue.

"I tried to prevail upon them, and they didn't listen to me," he said. "I'm right, they're wrong."

Environmentalists said California gave away too much in its negotiation with Nevada officials.

"Imagine Lake Tahoe clouded by pollution, its scenic views obstructed by new tall buildings, with even more traffic caused by intensified development around the lake," Laurel Ames, conservation co-chair of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, said in a prepared statement. "This will happen under the new regional development plan. That is not the Lake Tahoe we want to leave for future generations."

In a speech at the event, Gore said global warming threatens the environment and economy of the region, and he said increased flooding could devastate lower-lying areas.

"Many of the most vulnerable cities are in the United States," he said. "And by the way, that includes Sacramento, because a two-foot increase in the sea level rise puts water in Sacramento, coming down through the valley."

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

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