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Sierra Club v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20079
Nos. 2:13-cv-00267, (E.D. Cal., 04/07/2014) (Mendez, J.)

A district court upheld the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's latest land use and development plan for the Lake Tahoe Area Basin, located along the California and Nevada border. The updated plan, issued in 2012, includes the agency's adoption of a regional transportation plan and the incorporation of Lake Tahoe's TMDL. Environmental groups argued that the planning agency's failure to analyze the impacts of concentrating impervious coverage was arbitrary and capricious. But the court must be “at its most deferential” in reviewing an agency's scientific methodology, including the scope and scale of its studies. Here, the plan's shift to the TMDL model was supported by substantial evidence and is entitled to deference. The groups also argued that the EIS failed to address soil conservation concerns and was not supported by the record. But while the agency's discussion of the plan's soil-related impact is not as thorough as that of water quality impact, the agency's conclusion that the plan would not have a significant effect on the basin's soil conditions is supported by the record. Similarly, substantial evidence supported the agency's conclusion that the plan will achieve and maintain the ozone threshold. Nor was the agency's reliance on best management practices in concluding that the plan will not significantly affect water quality arbitrary or capricious. The plan includes a number of provisions that will result in widespread implementation of new best management practices and more effective maintenance of existing ones.