On Thursday, April 11, 2013 the State Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Mining voted to pass Assembly Bill 396 as amended, which would allow public access to Lake Tahoe’s shoreline. The bill now goes to the full Assembly.
Unlike California, Nevada law does not provide for public access on private property between the high- and low-water marks at Lake Tahoe. AB396 would allow access up to the high-water mark of public waters in the state.
The legislative digest for the bill states: “Subject to certain specified restrictions, this bill authorizes persons to use water that is navigable or capable of being navigated by oar, paddle or motorized watercraft year round at or below the ordinary high-water mark for any otherwise lawful activity that uses water, including boating, fishing, swimming and wading.”
“AB396 means private beaches would no longer exist.” — State Senator James Settelmeyer
Jan Brisco, executive director of the Tahoe Lakefront Owners’ Association, said the bill represents a “significant shift” in how property rights operate on the Nevada side of the lake.
Proponents of the bill focus on the revenue outdoor recreation brings to the state, claiming that it generates $14.9 billion in consumer spending and 148,000 jobs.
Under the legislation, people would also be allowed to carry a kayak around obstacles, like piers, that enter public water.
According to the bill, “If a natural or artificial obstruction interferes with the use of a public access water, a person may, along with his or her vessel, portage around the obstruction in a manner that is reasonably direct and closest to the water to reenter the water immediately above or below the obstruction at the nearest point where it is safe to do so.”
Shoreline property owners would be allowed to place a fence or barrier on their property across lake water, but would be required to include a ladder or gate to provide access around the obstacle, according to the bill.
Allowing public access to private lands without compensation is “troublesome,” Brisco said, adding many people have sought out shoreline property on the Nevada side of the lake because of the property rights.
According to State Senator James Settelmeyer, “AB396 would allow a person to trespass on property below the normal high water mark. That means private beaches would no longer exist. You have to pay taxes on the land, but you can’t keep someone off it. They could then sue the property owner if they get hurt. Property rights are in jeopardy.”