Costly gas makes Tahoe boating pricier | SierraSun.com

Costly gas makes Tahoe boating pricier

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun
Andrew Cristancho/Sierra SunPaul Brunk, marina employee, replaces a gas pump handle at the Tahoe City Marina. Brunk said most customers do not complain about prices at the dock.
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As the Santa Barbara man and his family pile out of a rental boat at the Tahoe City

Marina, he examines the bill gas dock attendant Michael Dowden hands him.

“How much gas did we use?” Palmer Jackson, 42, inquires.

“Two-point-nine gallons,” Dowden answers.

A quick glance at the pump reveals that Jackson paid $14.91 for less than 3 gallons of medium-octane gas.

“It’s expensive,” Jackson comments. ” But I’m an optimist: We’re still paying less than the Europeans.”

While it cost families like the Jacksons an arm and a leg to take a spin on Lake Tahoe this summer, the good news is that Californians no longer pay the most to fill up a tank.

It’s official. California is not burdened with the highest average gas prices in the nation, according to a recent report from the American Automobile Association.

The Golden State recently has trailed only Hawaii in sky-high gas prices, but now the average price here has dropped below the prices in such states as Iowa, Illinois and Kansas. The report cites production problems in Midwest refineries for rising prices there.

At a statewide average of $3.15, a gallon of gas in California is 15 cents lower than last month. But that does not translate to the prices some vacationers will end up paying.

While boating on Lake Tahoe some consumers will pay as much as $5.29 for a gallon of high octane.

Another visitor, 66-year-old Del Geddes of Boise, Idaho, explained why he is willing to pay the higher prices to go boating on Lake Tahoe.

“Everything up here is [pricier] but we had to get our Tahoe fix,” he said.

That sentiment echoed the comments of Sunnyside Marina manager Mike Schenone.

“People who boat on Lake Tahoe accept the price,” the 20-year veteran of the docks said. “It’s like getting a cheeseburger [in Tahoe] for ten dollars; in Auburn you can get a hell of a burger for six dollars.”

Location is not the only reason boaters have to pay more. Schenone cites expensive permits, environmental concerns and the seasonal nature of gas service on the lake. Sunnyside Marina is only open seven months out of the year.

The marina manager showed monthly gas sales figures for the past seven years and for this April ” that number was zero. But the main reason for higher prices on the lake is the bulk discount that land-based gas retailers receive from wholesalers.

“I sell in a whole season what Gold Ranch [a busy gas station in Verdi, Nevada] sells in a week,” he said.

Schenone said his marina sells an average 60-70,000 gallons per year compared to 100,000 gallons a week by some gas stations.

Tahoe City Marina General Manager Jim Phelan would not disclose his wholesale prices, but said the figure has gone up and down at least 15 times since April.

“Sometimes what we pay for fuel is what you pay at the pump on land,” Phelan said.

“It’s no major profit center, let me tell you that,” Schenone said.

Rob McAuliffe, who manages a Truckee 76 gas station, would not comment on the station’s wholesale prices, saying those figures are confidential.

According to the Triple A report, national gas prices may rise in the near future because “the cost of crude oil, the raw material from which gas is made, has increased over the past month.” Also, wholesale prices to retailers have been on the rise over the last two weeks.

Although California’s average price is lower this month, the state actually shares the highest gasoline price for any city in the contiguous 48 states. In Eureka, California, and Chicago, Illinois, a consumer can expect to pay $3.42 per gallon.