Tahoe ferry considered, but a long way off | SierraSun.com

Tahoe ferry considered, but a long way off

Adam Jensen
Sun News Service

Courtesy photo/Sierra SunA solar-powered ferry is already in service in England and Australia, and has some Tahoe residents thinking about new ferry service.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” For those looking to bridge the miles of blue separating Lake Tahoe’s North and South shores, a ferry might seem like a reasonable option. But a year-round, regularly scheduled water ferry between the shores is still years away.

Such a service could likely begin operation in 2012, according to a site-selection study prepared for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The date is “optimistic, but it’s possible,” according to agency spokeswoman Julie Regan, adding that large-scale projects like waterborne transit often take many years to complete.

Operating a ferry between Ski Run Marina and Tahoe City Marina would be the most practical way to shuttle passengers across Lake Tahoe’s waters, according to the study completed this summer.

The initial cost of such a shuttle would be about $14 million, to be followed by $500,000 in annual operating costs, according to TRPA data.

Eight million dollars in federal money has been authorized for a waterborne transportation project on Lake Tahoe, but has yet to be appropriated, Regan said. She added the lack of appropriation will not spell the end to an idea that has attracted public interest for decades, according to TRPA documents.

“There’s is definitely a strong possibility of the appropriation in the future,” Regan said.

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Planners have also expressed interest in obtaining grants through the Federal Transit Administration’s “Small Starts” program for the project.

Several more analyses, including economic, operational and environmental, are required before a ferry service such as the one described in the study will become reality.

Prepared for the TRPA by outside consultants, the site selection study includes analysis of the Kings Beach Pier and Lakeside Marina as possible locations for a ferry service, but determined the Ski Run to Tahoe City route was preferable because of access, amenities, the number of riders, site availability and environmental factors.

Parking at Ski Run Marina was the only criteria ranked “poor” between the two preferred sites. Every other criteria analyzed at Tahoe City and Ski Run Marinas was rated “adequate” or “good” in the study.

Reconfiguring Ski Run Boulevard to accommodate additional parking or building a parking garage on the existing Blue Lake parking lot, just south of Highway 50 on Ski Run Boulevard, are two options to deal with the increased demand for parking arising from the development of a ferry service at the site, according to the study.

Action Watersports operates a water shuttle out of the South Shore following a regular route, and ZenBlu Water Adventures operates a taxi-like water shuttle service out of the North Shore.