Boat inspection changes made to cover funding gap
Several changes are being made to Lake Tahoe’s motorized watercraft inspections this summer to close a $100,000 shortfall in federal funding for a program that aims to keep aquatic invasive species out of the lake.
The program offers seven-day passes and two stickers: Tahoe Only stickers for boats used exclusively on Lake Tahoe, and Tahoe In and Out stickers for boats that go to other bodies of water as well.
One change for this summer is a $10 increase in boat decontamination fees, from $25 to $35. That was approved Thursday by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board. All other fees remain the same as last year.
Roughly 14,000 boats were certified to launch last year at Lake Tahoe. Of those, about 6,800 required new inspections and about 4,000 had to be decontaminated because they showed up wet or holding water or with mud or even invasive species on them.
“That’s a lot for us,” TRPA spokesman Jeff Cowen said about the number of boats requiring decontamination. “If we need to increase the funding from fees, we want it to be coming from the boaters who are costing the program. That was the direction from the Governing Board, so no boaters who show up cleaned, drained and dry will feel anything.”
An inspection station at Homewood will not operate this summer, saving the program an estimated $30,000. The station only did about 8 percent of boat inspections last year.
The program also will reduce its contributions to marina operators by 15 percent. The contributions help marinas employ additional staff to comply with TRPA code that requires boat ramps to close if no marina staff are on hand to ensure only sealed boats launch. That measure is estimated to save another $30,000.
A multi-agency Lake Tahoe Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinating Committee proposed all of the changes to the program, which is jointly managed by TRPA and the Tahoe Resource Conservation District.
In coming weeks, the coordinating committee will consider reducing hours at Meyers, Spooner and Alpine Meadows inspection stations, which would potentially close at 5:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. Any changes in hours as a cost-saving measure will be announced prior to Memorial Day.
The watercraft inspection program costs about $1.5 million to run each year. Last year, money for the program was split about evenly between user fees and federal funding coming primarily from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act.
That federal funding is declining this year and will no longer be available after the 2014 boating season, according to TRPA.
“If these adjustments work out, then the boaters will only be paying for about 55 percent of the program costs this year. So boaters are paying a fair share, but not bearing the entire cost of the program,” Cowen said.
As always, boaters are urged to show up “Cleaned, Drained and Dry.” That saves time and money, takes pressure off the watercraft inspection program and helps protect Lake Tahoe, Cowen said.