Tahoe boat ramps without inspectors may close | SierraSun.com

Tahoe boat ramps without inspectors may close

Adam Jensen
Sun News Service

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE “-A proposal by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to require Lake Tahoe’s boat ramps to close in the absence of invasive species inspectors is headed to a vote this week.

On Wednesday, the TRPA’s Governing Board is scheduled to decide on the new code, which would also require boat owners to get a TRPA-approved boat decontamination if it is deemed necessary by an inspector.

Limiting boat access during early morning and late evening hours, the cost of inspections and a loss of revenue from ramp closures are concerns surrounding the potential new regulations.

TRPA staff met with boat ramp operators this month in an attempt to resolve such concerns and an implementation plan for potential closures will be presented at Wednesday’s meeting, according to the meeting’s agenda.

If the code changes pass, implementation could “occur very quickly,” according to a TRPA letter sent to boat ramp operators last month.

“For this reason we need your input and assistance to make certain we have an implementation strategy that is flexible enough to address the needs of the boating community,” indicates the letter. “Our focus here is to ensure every boat entering the lake is inspected – NOT to close ramps and limit public access.”

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The potential new code does not require approval by the agency’s Advisory Planning Commission because it will be discussed under an emergency declaration regarding invasive species, approved by the Governing Board in May 2007.

Earlier this month, the difficulty of enforcing invasive species inspections was highlighted by an incident at the North Shore where a man launched his ski boat after refusing an inspection.

On the morning of Sept. 1, a man became uncooperative at the Lake Forest Boat Ramp in Tahoe City when a aquatic invasive species inspector attempted to inspect the boat for invasive species, said TRPA spokesman Dennis Oliver.

The TRPA does not have the enforcement capability to stop a boat from entering Lake Tahoe without an inspection, but the agency can impose a $5,000 fine for an illegal launch, Oliver said.

The planning agency sent a letter to the registered owner of the boat ” a Davis resident ” requesting information and informing him the boat was launched illegally.

Whether the registered owner was the man who launched the boat on Sept. 1 is still unknown, Oliver said.

The letter warned that litigation in federal court is possible because of the incident.

As of Friday a response from the owner of the boat had not been received by the TRPA and the agency was giving the man more time to reply.

“The matter requires more investigation before it goes to an enforcement action or penalty phase,” Oliver said in an e-mail.

During a presentation last month, TRPA Wildlife Program Manager Ted Thayer told the Governing Board of the need for jurisdictions around the lake to adopt ordinances so local law enforcement can prevent boat owners who refuse an inspection from launching their boats in Lake Tahoe.

Invasive mussels have been found in nearly 20 lakes and reservoirs in California, as well as the Colorado River system, according to the California Department of Boating and Waterways.

Mussels have also been found in Nevada’s Lake Mead, Lake Havasu and Lake Mohave.

Lake Tahoe joins five other areas in California with no known population of Quagga mussels which have begun restrictions on boats to prevent the spread of invasive mussels.

Who: Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

What: Governing Board Meeting

When: Wednesday starting at 9:30 a.m.

Where: The Chateau, 955 Fairway Blvd., Incline Village

A public workshop on TRPA’s shorezone ordinance update will be held on Thursday starting at 9 a.m. The meeting will be held at the TRPA’s South Shore offices, located at 128 Market street in Stateline.