Opinion: State Parks’ rehearing of Washoe Meadows was a farce


By Nancy Graalman

After a misplaced display of pique – directed at citizens exercising their public meeting rights instead of at California State Parks staff responsible for an awkward do-over of actions taken last fall – State Park

Commissioners approved last Friday a re-packaged resolution that downgrades portions of Washoe Meadows State Park to clear the way for golf course development as part of the Upper Truckee River Restoration and Golf Course Configuration Project in South Lake Tahoe.

The mulligan was prompted by State Parks’ seeking to “correct” the procedures that were the foundation of the Commission’s vote last October to reclassify Washoe Meadows and approve the river repair project.

It quickly became obvious at the Jan. 27 meeting in Brentwood that the “reconsideration” directive was merely for technical and pre-emptive purposes. The revised reviews, draft resolutions, and findings of fact handed out at the meeting, bolstered by statements by State Parks’ legal representation, seemed to be a response to the lawsuit filed in November by the Washoe Meadows Community against the Commission and Parks Department for environmental studies inadequacies as well as violations of statutory obligations related to the reclassification of Washoe Meadows.

It was clear from the start that the the re-vote was a mere formality.

However, because the issue was part of the commission’s agenda open for public input, citizens introduced substantive material that adds to mounting evidence that the Parks Department’s chosen alternative — which relies on extending nine holes of the Lake Tahoe Golf Course into current Washoe Meadows parkland — remains problematic for issues ranging from geomorphologic claims to economic analyses about golfing trends and the reality of potential burdens on California taxpayers.

Among last Friday’s speakers who urged the commission to reject the reconsidered project — or at least delay the vote — was Norma Santiago, El Dorado County supervisor and current chair of the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Ms. Santiago not only cited the significant economic and environmental concerns over the state’s proposals, she also offered fresh, creative and positive ways to look at river restoration, golf continuation, and South Lake Tahoe recreational opportunities.

Defense of Place, while firmly denied permission to speak the usual five minutes given to organizations, urged the commission not to leave a legacy as the board that opened the door to the downgrading of legislatively protected state parks, leaving natural resources vulnerable to unintended consequences. (California’s only previously publicized attempt to reclassify a protected state park area occurred in September 2010 when the Parks Department yielded to public alarms about legal and ecologic risks and withdrew its proposal to reclassify a portion of Tolowa Dunes StatePark as a state recreation area.)

Nancy Graalman is a member of Defense of Place.



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Comments (12)
  1. Lisa says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    When you look at the economic data the Parks used to determine that they will make money from this (as opposed to up to date data),the lack of financial basis for this project is astounding. You can make anything look good if you don’t use correct numbers for your calculations. I am just trying to figure out how the developer who stands to make more money with no outlay except taxpayer dollars, got them to do this? Way to go Parks.

  2. Robert says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    Again.. This is not a water quality project. Protect the banks, control grade, create buffer and walk away saving us all tons of funding and controversy. Developing a golf course in the name of restoration makes no sense… Restoration would eliminate the golfcourse not expand it…! If bank erosion is the problem,, Fix it! The habitat is lush and the meadow productive outside the course. These are opinions people have . Does anyone realize how much dirt 100,000 yards is? It’s allot!!! That’s an insane amount of disturbance for a couple eroding streambanks and an attempt to raise groundwater next to a golfcourse that still will be “a golfcourse” next to the river..

  3. Mike Bradford says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    I am pleased State Parks is pursuing water quality and recreational improvements. Thank you, California State Parks, for showing leadership and not embracing the status quo. The Tahoe community will benefit from the greater good.

  4. Joe man says - Posted: February 1, 2012

    If these are recreational improvements then just call it that. Dont use water quality as the facade to justify recreation. Does instream water quality data exist to justify this being a water quality project? There is natural bank erosion all over rivers in the northwest… There has to be a better more cost effective solution then developing a golf course. It seems Recreation can be blended into this area without the level of disturbance they propose.

  5. John says - Posted: February 2, 2012

    Joe, if you are against golf then fine. But words have meaning. “Developing a golf course” clearly indicates that a golf course does not exist there today. It does. They are reconfiguring the golf course to get it away from the river. Look its going to court already. Every lie in the world has been used against this project and it has turned people like me who really don’t care one way or the other, against the community group. From the nitrogen scare above to migration corridors that dont exist, every falsehood that could be dreamed up has been leveled against this project.

    My only regret is that the community group won’t have to pay State Parks legal fees at the end of this. We need fundamental tort reform in California and at the federal level. People should have access to the courts, but they should take advantage of the access at their own financial peril.

  6. Joe man says - Posted: February 2, 2012

    John… I golf… Bottom line is A golfcourse is being developed on washoe land that was previously designated for conservation. So yes, it is golf course development as there was never a course on that land prior. Buffer creates boundary between the water course and golfcourse. That is what is needed… And if bank erosion is the problem, then fix it…. Water quality impacts from bank erosion constitutes 4% of the basinwide contribution.

  7. John says - Posted: February 2, 2012

    Joe, golf course land is being restored back to meadow. So your sentence should read “a golf course is being dismantled.” And with the exchange, a golf course is being dismantled on Washoe land. In fact using language the way you are, the Washoe Meadows State Park is being expanded.

    Joe, I dont golf. I think it’s boring beyond belief. But you folks are turning people like me with your one-sided discussion of the project.

    I am not going to get into it, but the 4% isn’t the point, reattaching creeks to meadows is the point. That does have an impact on urban run-off.

  8. Joe man says - Posted: February 2, 2012

    Sorry John… U don’t appear to know what your talking about. The golfcourse will still be in the meadow.. Go to the alternative map and see for yourself. Buffer is being created… That’s good… Buffer that could be created without development of more holes and fairways. The golfcourse will still be there… And…. Reattaching the creek has absolutely nothing to do with urban runoff…   What are you talking about.? And as for one sided… The science does not support it nor have these been proven in the past to be effective. I’m open to ideas if they make sense.

  9. John says - Posted: February 2, 2012

    Joe, I know this: + 1 – 1 = 0 and that is the net of the golf course in a meadow. Add in buffer so any potential fertilizer runoff is consumed before it hits the creek and reatttach the river to the flood plane, and its not a bad project. Yes, reattaching the creek does effect urban runoff, during peak runoff the creek runs into the meadow and filters the sediment that originated in urban areas. Look its not the biggest deal I agree. But it is part of the benefit. Plus more fish habitat and the riparian veg comes back which is great animal habitat. The project really is pretty good overall. Like I said, I dont golf and I dont live there, I dont have a dog in the fight. But I do not support the community group simply because of the language that has been used and the blatant falsehoods like the migration corridor junk. If the community group is turning to that then they must be desperate. And they are not desperate because of the plethora of negatives about the project.

  10. Tucker says - Posted: February 2, 2012

    Bottom line…to be “PC” is to return the river to the way it WAS. I have attended the meetings… Well, either we can spend lots of money that the state does not have to repair what “we” (humans) have done, or let nature heal herself. “We” are trying to fix what nature is fixing on her own…only over TIME! We humans straightened the river, put up bridges, and golf courses…only to complain about erosion, and damage to said golf course. “Oh, hole 6 is being eaten away!” No, the bridge is creating a physical hose which is eroding the bank. Why? Because a river should meander. A river will meander, left to it’s own nature. In this time of fiscal dire straits…be wise. Don’t fight mother nature. Time heals.

    Adjust the golf course holes with the river. No need to redesign and expand.

    Granted, Lake Tahoe Golfcourse is near the top grossing lease of CA State Parks.

  11. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: February 2, 2012

    if you go to the mouth of the Truckee River where it enters the Lake. thats where the fertilizer settles out on the flats,

    when the lake drops the flats over grow
    with flora

    back before they upgraded the Golf course when it was $5.00 in the 70’s
    the flats also known as CowPie beach
    were all sand no flora

  12. Joe man says - Posted: February 3, 2012

    John.., I am Desperately trying to get your point and i respect what your saying. I live here and have watched these meadows flood for decades. Meadows food seasonally and not all the time. The time they flood is typically in the spring and most the time there is no rain and hence no urban runoff. They hardly ever flood during rain events unless it’s a 97 type of event or massive rain on snow, but at that point all bets are off. If you are using overbank flow to treat urban runoff you are setting yourself up for failure. The urban runoff goes through that meadow now and is best treated when not flooding as it allows the water to soak into the ground naturally. And by the way, I’m not part of that group. Just a concerned citizen watching our tax dollars.

    Tucker- amen…