Piers and Buoys for Lakefront Homes Lake Tahoe

Undoubtedly, the biggest draw for lakefront homebuyers and sellers at Lake Tahoe is having direct access to beautiful Lake Tahoe. Because all moorings, which include buoys, boatlifts, and boat slips, along with piers fall under the jurisdiction of TRPA, obtaining a permit requires a process of approval.

Below are some of the most recent updates for obtaining a permit for a pier or mooring at Lake Tahoe.

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

Because Lake Tahoe extends across both Nevada and California, protecting the lake was challenging. In 1969, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) was created as a bi state compact and ratified by the US Congress. This organization works diligently to protect our watershed.

As a regulatory agency, TRPA provides guidelines for tree removal, shoreline views, irrigation runoff as it protects the lake, and the permitting process for piers and moorings. TRPA is committed to ensuring the Lake Tahoe basin is protected for generations to come.

During the 1950's and 1960's, Lake Tahoe had experienced the rapid development of homes with no planning or guidelines in place to protect the watershed. In fact, the area was slated to become a city the size of San Francisco. Developers even had plans to create a highway on some of our most beloved mountain trails.

When the Olympics came to Squaw Valley in the 1960’s, interest in the area grew. There were no regulations on building, and in areas like the Tahoe Keys in South Lake Tahoe, neighborhoods were built on top of natural watershed filters.

Without any type of oversight, the famous blue clarity of Lake Tahoe was threatened. For this reason, TRPA regulates transportation, land use and planning, and have authority over the entire water shed surrounding Lake Tahoe.


Homebuyers and sellers are required to abide by Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce irrigation and runoff impacts on the lake. Certification began in the early 2000s and rolled out across the basin in subsequent decades. If certification for BMPs has not already been applied to an existing parcel, it will be required prior to transferring title.

BMPs can include coverage, how water drains from a property and what type of mitigating rocks or gardens can be used to control irrigation. These Best Management Practices for runoff ensure that the clarity of the lake remains undisturbed.

Snowmelt on the sloping elevations that surround the Tahoe basin is controlled through the diligence of each and every homeowner.

2018 Shoreline Plan

When TRPA released its Shoreline Plan in 2018, it was great news to many lakefront owners and association members who wanted to build piers or install buoy fields. A longstanding moratorium on new shore zone structures at Lake Tahoe was lifted, but it still limits the number and time frame for creating these structures.

Through this plan, TRPA regulates new shore zone structures such as piers, moorings, and public boat ramps. Marinas and homeowner associations can also find a framework within the plan that allows them to make improvements.


Lakefront property owners, homeowners’ associations, and marinas are required to register all existing boat moorings. Moorings are structures that allow boats to be removed and include buoys, boat slips and boatlifts. Piers fall under a different category.

Through the registration and annual fees of moorings, TRPA is able to expand their educational programs and enforce the use of permits.. Any existing or proposed moorings must be registered with TRPA. If you would like more information on registering your mooring, please click here.

The annual cost to register a mooring is currently $90 per buoy, and $43 per boat lift or slip. All tags in all parts of the lake are monitored by TRPA. You can find out if a mooring or pier is allocated to your parcel by clicking here.

Over the next 20 years, the plan will allocate 1,486 new private moorings. This phased plan began in 2020 and will continue until all available moorings are allocated. All applications for a new mooring must include proof of compliance with BMPs and the issued certificate from TRPA.

How to Obtain a Pier Permit

There are several steps in obtaining a permit for a pier at Lake Tahoe. It starts by entering a lottery. TRPA has allocated 128 additional new piers, which includes 110 multiple-parcel or shared piers, and 18 single parcel piers.  Not all lakefront homes have piers and building or renovating an existing pier is regulated by TRPA.

Drawing and selection started in 2021, after TRPA received applications from both California and Nevada lakefront residents. From June 1st to June 30th  in 2023, they will begin accepting more applications for the next lottery drawing. Every two years, more piers will be allocated until 128 have been allotted.

If you are wanting to obtain a permit for the next lottery, you should start planning now, as there is a process that must be followed if your name is pulled.

The Lottery Process

From December 1st to March 1st, TRPA conducts a random drawing to allocate 15% of available pier permits. Entrance eligibility requires that the parcel joins to the high-water line. Additionally, the property cannot be deed restricted. While pier permitting will require BMP certification, it is not required to enter the lottery. Once you are notified that you have been chosen, then the BMP certification can proceed.

Over every 2-year period, TRPA permits up to 12 new piers in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Homeowner association or multiple-parcel and shared-use account for the majority of allocations. Although winning the lottery drawing gives you access to the application process, they will also check to make sure you are able to move forward with the permitting process within a couple of months.  

Additionally, all lottery winners will have 6 months to submit a complete application. At this point, the homeowner is required to submit proof of BMP certification. All piers that are approved must be constructed within 3 years.

For more information on the pier application and approval process at Lake Tahoe, click here.

I specialize in representing luxury properties in the Bay Area and at Lake Tahoe. It is important to work with an agent who understands the nuances of TRPA restrictions and guidelines. A pier can add enormous value to any lakefront property. Contact me today for more information.

Listing Watch
Listing Watch

Listing Watch

Sign up to receive instant email notifications when properties meeting your search criteria come on the market.

Home Valuation
Home Valuation

My Home Valuation

Selling your home? We can give you a professional assessment of your home's current market value.

Market Stats
Market Stats

Market Stats

Get a neighborhood snapshot of current listings, average sales prices and current days on market.

Get unprecedented access to Lake Tahoe and Bay Area luxury market information. Sign up today!