Tahoe East Shore Trail set to open between Incline and Sand Harbor; AB84 paves way for more

by Brian Bahouth and Roger Moellendorf

A section of the Tahoe East Shore Trail between Incline Village and Sand Harbor, NV - image - Tahoe Transportation District

Reno – Swimming areas on Lake Tahoe’s northeastern shore like Hidden Beach are most typically accessed by parking your car on a narrow shoulder along the busy, winding, two-lane route 28 and hiking down to the beach. On every clement summer day cars and people crowd an already crowded roadway and present significant traffic and safety concerns to say nothing of the hassle getting to the beach; but on June 28, a roughly 3 mile section of the Tahoe East Shore Trail will open between Incline Village and Sand Harbor that will enable bicycle or foot access to Hidden Beach and other shoreline spots along the way.

The South Demonstration Bikeway project Phase 1B was completed in June of 2013 and Phase 1C was completed October that same year. The full Tahoe East Shore Trail will ultimately extend over 30 miles from the state line at Crystal Bay, Nevada on Lake Tahoe’s north shore to Stateline, Nevada on the south shore. Now, with the passage of Assembly Bill 84, pending the governor’s signature, the much needed multi-use path and many other projects across the state will continue to be funded through the issuance of general obligation bonds backed by the state.

The Nevada Assembly passed AB84 by a unanimous vote. The Senate passed the measure by a 20 to 1 margin with the only no vote coming from conservative Republican Senator Ira Hansen. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed the bill into law on June 7 and will attend  the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Incline to Sand Harbor section of the bikeway on June 28.

Background

In 2002 Nevada voters approved the Nevada Conservation Bond Question or Question 1 by a 59 to 41 percent margin. The measure enabled the state to issue general obligation bonds to “protect, preserve and obtain the benefits of the property and natural resources of this State in an amount not to exceed $200,000,000.” The voter-approved measure allocated specific amounts of the bond proceeds to various programs and projects to include the Tahoe eastern shore bikeway. AB84 requires the State Board of Finance to issue an additional $217,500,000 in state general obligation bonds to continue to fund the work started under a voter-approved bond measure in 2002 and new projects.

Karen Mullen is a consultant for the Lake Tahoe Transportation District on the Tahoe East Shore Trail. Following a hearing on AB84 in Assembly Ways and Means last week, Mullen spoke with Nevada Capital News environment reporter Roger Moellendorf about the critical role general obligation bonds played and continue to play in funding the bikeway. AB84 holds $5 million in bond assurances for the East Shore Trail.

Listen to an interview with Karen Mullen.

“This bill unlocks funding, which unlocks federal dollars for projects such as the Tahoe bike path, and we’re pleased that it’s moving forward,” Karen Mullen said. “We feel that we were very successful in a partnership that had 13 agencies working together at Lake Tahoe and in addition, we were able to unlock over $25 million in federal funds and other funding sources to actually build I think one of the international trails that we will have here in not only at Lake Tahoe, but nationwide. In fact, we just received an international trails award for the partnership that was developed up at Lake Tahoe.

“It’s exciting. We will be opening the Incline to Sand Harbor section in June, the last week of June. And so folks can look forward to riding that this summer. It has the longest bridge at Lake Tahoe, 810 feet, so it’s an interesting project, and this (AB84) will certainly help us move forward.”

What is a general obligation bond?

Typically, a general obligation bond is a way state or local governments can raise money for public works projects such as roads and parks. A general obligation bond requires governments to cover the debt with typical revenue generating resources. From an investor and credit rating agency perspective, general obligation bonds secured by governmental ability to repay the money are among the most solid of investments, and AB84 provides the backing of the state government against the issuance of bonds for projects like the Tahoe bikeway.

The Tahoe East Shore Trail

Construction in the Tahoe basin is subject to various levels of environmental scrutiny and is thereby very expensive and potentially complicated. Because the bikeway construction occurs adjacent to the shore of the environmentally sensitive lake, the level of environmental scrutiny is intense. Karen Mullen said bonding from the 2002 Question 1 enabled planners and designers to meet challenges with innovation.

“This project is a project where we’re testing some new techniques in construction and constructability, and a lot of people had to put their heads together to figure out how on this winding two lane highway to build over the edge of the highway and build this path,” Mullen said. “And now we’re getting phone calls from places like Oregon Department of Transportation and Caltrans to be looking at their areas and how to do construction in these difficult both environmentally sensitive and, and sort of steep terrain areas. So it’s good, it’s good to have Nevada on a project like this.”

In order to build the bikeway, officials must comply with the environmental scoping process as mandated in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The preparation of an environmental impact statement is a costly portion of the project, and money raised and leveraged through AB84 will enable managers to keep the bikeway project moving forward.

“It will first of all, continue our environmental NEPA process on various segments of the project. And then secondly, it actually acts as a $5 million would act as a leverage point where we can then go in and apply for federal dollars knowing that we have a set aside funding source to access and to match those federal dollars and other funds,” Mullen said. “It also, as you will know up at Lake Tahoe, we’ve had a lot of local support and have raised over a million dollars in private funding. And so by having this come forward again, we can then say to folks, let’s do it again. Let’s see if we can raise some more private dollars.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for the opening of the Incline to Sand Harbor segment of the bikeway on June 28, but the legislation helps fund many more projects across the state.  If made law, AB84 will further enable a number of projects specifically named in the legislation and other new projects as well with $217 million in bond assurances from the state.

AB84 lists many specific projects around the state for the issuance of bonds.

Las Vegas Springs Preserve – will get $30 million for wildlife habitat; constructing buildings and other facilities for the Preserve; or providing other infrastructure for the Preserve.

Division of State Parks of the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (NDCR) will get $30 million to be allocated to the Division of State Parks of the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to protect and preserve the property or natural resources of this State or to obtain the benefits thereof for the following purposes: for the acquisition of real or personal property or interests in real or personal property for purposes related to parks and recreation; or for the planning, design and construction of capital improvements and renovations of facilities in state parks.

Nevada Department of Wildlife  will get $30 million for the acquisition of real or personal property or interests in real or personal property to enhance, protect and manage wildlife habitat or enhance recreational opportunities related to wildlife, or both.

Clark County for the Clark County Wetlands Park and the Lower Las Vegas Wash will get $10 million that must be allocated to Clark County for the Clark County Wetlands Park and the Lower Las Vegas Wash. The money allocated must be used to:
divert water, control erosion and make improvements to restore the existing wetlands, and to create new wetlands; acquire and develop land and water rights; provide recreational facilities; provide additional parking for and access to the Park; and construct weirs in the Lower Las Vegas Wash.

Nevada Division of Museums will get $30 million that must be allocated to the Division of Museums and History of the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs to carry out the purposes set forth in this subsection. The money allocated pursuant to this subsection must be used for: the expansion of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City; the rehabilitation and [expansion] improvement of the East Ely Depot Museum; and the establishment or improvement of any museum in the state system of museums within the Division, including, without limitation, for: the planning, design or construction of such a museum; the improvement of such a museum; moving exhibits within the state system of museums; or creating new or improving existing exhibits.

Public/Private partnerships

The NDCR will award $5 million to the State Land Registrar of the Division of State Lands of the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to purchase or enter into a public-private partnership, or both, for the preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, reconstruction or adaptive reuse of properties in this State listed on the National Register of Historic Places maintained pursuant to 54 U.S.C. § 302101, including at least $2 million for the Caliente Railroad Depot in Caliente, Nevada.

Las Vegas Valley Rim Trail

Ten million dollars must be allocated to Clark County to disburse to a nonprofit organization to plan, design, construct or develop the Las Vegas Valley Rim Trail.

Truckee and Carson Rivers

Ten million dollars will be allocated to the NDCR for grants to state agencies, local governments, water conservancy districts, conservation districts and nonprofit organizations to enhance and restore the Truckee River corridor and watershed and the Carson River corridor and watershed. The NDCR is tasked with establishing the criteria for winning the awards and if a match is necessary.

Tahoe East Shore Trail

AB84 will allocate $5 million to the NDCR to variously fund the Tahoe East Shore Trail. The possible use of the money is broad in definition. “ Money awarded pursuant to this subsection must be used to acquire land for the path system or develop the path system.”

Various grants

Under AB84, the Nevada State Director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will administer the issuance of bonding ability for a variety of environmental and conservation projects. Under the amended version of AB84, $57 million must be allocated to the NDCR to make a variety of grants. NDCR shall ensure that $37 million is used in Clark County, $20 million is used in Washoe County and $10 million is used in the remainder of the State. In a broad sense, the grants will be used for the design and construction of recreational facilities, campsites and trails, including, without limitation, hiking, equestrian and bicycle trails.

Acquisition of new land

The NDCR will make grants to counties and municipalities for the acquisition of land and water rights or interests in land and water rights to protect and enhance wildlife habitat, sensitive or unique vegetation, historic or cultural resources, riparian corridors, wetlands and other environmental resources pursuant to an adopted plan for open spaces.