Is Tahoe’s ‘dream boat’ years away? |

Is Tahoe’s ‘dream boat’ years away?

Plans for a ferry service across Lake Tahoe are moving ahead a year after Congress approved $8 million for the project, but the idea could be years away, according to a local planning agency.

“The waterborne transportation proposal is a long-range planning effort to improve air quality, transportation and quality of life in the basin,” said Jeff Cowen, community liaison for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “There is no timeline. This could be years in the making.”

The project is currently in the study phase and Caltrans has committed $65,000 for a site selection study to determine the best place to become a service hub. Sites currently being considered include the Tahoe City Marina, Ski Run Marina in South Lake and another undetermined site near Stateline, said Cowen.

Other marinas or towns that want to be considered as a potential site can pay $15,000 to join the study. The Incline Village General Improvement District recently heard a proposal to add the IVGID-owned Hermit Beach to the site selection study, which was met with opposition from community and board members.

“IVGID is not behind it,” said Bill Horn, the district’s general manager. “Legally we don’t have a choice. We fought for private beaches and now we have to defend them.”

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is currently heading the project, but the Tahoe Transportation District, which is made up of local jurisdictions, Caltrans and the Nevada Department of Transportation, decided on the type of ferry they would like to see used.

The Solar Sailor is “everyone’s favorite,” but there are no guarantees that it will be chosen as the passenger-carrying vessel, Cowen said.

The Solar Sailor, which will be used on the San Francisco Bay, is a solar-powered catamaran with solar panels that can lift up and catch wind, but it is mostly powered by the sun.

“We’re looking at the Solar Sailor as being the dream boat,” Cowen noted.

No studies have been done on which types of waterborne transportation would cause the least amount of pollution or erosion control, Cowen said.

When the proposal was approved by Congress last summer, it was mentioned that the money would be used to purchase two 100- to 200- passenger vessels for point-to-point service between the north and south shores.

Boats were once the most dependable way to transport people and supplies around the 193-square-mile lake. But the largest of the old vessels, the 169-foot SS Tahoe that launched in 1896, became too costly to operate and was scuttled 65 years ago.

Now tour boats and pleasure craft ply the lake, but there are no large boats to carry scores of passengers from one end of the lake to the other in about the same time it takes to drive a car ” 45 minutes to an hour ” and all for a low fare.

By Laurel Wamsley


A ferry dubbed the SolarShuttle launched on the Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park in July. The ferry carries 42 passengers across the lake, according to the BBC, which notes that the boat is the largest of its kind in Britain.

Because the ferry is powered by two silent engines that run on power collected by solar panels on its roof, the boat releases no emissions. The method for solar capture also ensures that the ferry can cruise on even the cloudiest days, the Associated Press added.

The United States will launch its own solar ferry in 2008, when the Solar Sailor sets off between San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz Island. The Solar Sailor has a distinctive wing covered in solar panels that can be retracted as wind conditions change, and is similar to a boat already cruising in Sydney, Australia.

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