Panel Mulls Making Wildfire Prevention a Top Priority at Tahoe

Wildfire prevention would become a top priority at Lake Tahoe under a proposal being considered by a panel formed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Some members of the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission said the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's compact should be changed to include fire prevention as a top goal.

The bistate agency is charged with regulating development at the Sierra lake famous for its crystal blue waters.

The fire commission was formed after a 3,100-acre wildfire in June destroyed more than 250 homes on the lake's south shore. A catastrophic wildfire looms as the primary threat to the lake's environment, according to experts.

Commission Co-Chair Sig Rogich of Nevada said he thought the proposed compact change was "very doable," while member Bud Hicks
of Nevada called it a "pretty dramatic suggestion" that will take a lot of discussion.

"I think there would be a lot of public support for (changing the compact)," Incline Village, Nev., resident Pete King told the commission on Friday.

TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub said the agency would be happy to implement changes recommended by the commission, but noted that it takes more than an act of Congress to change the TRPA's
compact.

Such changes must be approved by both California and Nevada
lawmakers, the governors of both states, Congress and the president.

"It's not something to be taken lightly," Singlaub told the Tahoe Daily Tribune. "If there is agreement, it can be done."

The compact forming the agency was signed by President Richard
Nixon in 1969 after it was approved by Congress and both states.

The fire commission also discussed whether to recommend that the
governors declare a state of emergency for the Tahoe Basin because
of the wildfire threat.

Such a declaration could streamline wildfire prevention processes and help secure funding, commission Co-Chair Kate Dargan said.

"We're trying to prepare for a catastrophic wildfire rather than respond to one," said Dargan, California's state fire marshal.

The 23-member panel was expected to present its recommendations
to the governors by March 21.
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Information from: Tahoe Daily Tribune, http://tahoe.com/tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-12-16-07 1658EST


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