Watercraft ban coming to Lake Tahoe this summer | SierraSun.com
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Watercraft ban coming to Lake Tahoe this summer

Andy Bourelle, Sun News Service

LAKE TAHOE -The watercraft ban is coming, and it looks like there is no changing it – not much anyway.

The planning commission that advises Lake Tahoe’s bistate regulatory agency endorsed on Jan. 13 the upcoming ban on carbureted two-stroke engines, agreeing to include only minor exemptions.

The Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is scheduled to take action on the issue later this month.

“We’re not recommending any (significant changes in the ordinance). Let’s get on with this and let the public know where we stand,” Gabby Barrett, chief of TRPA’s long-range planning division, told the agency’s Advisory Planning Commission.

TRPA staff is recommending the governing board make minor amendments – eliminating a “loophole” – in the ordinance that was adopted in 1997 and goes into effect June 1 of this year. Only minor exemptions will be made.

Small sailboat and 10-horsepower engines as well as a fire rescue boat for Fallen Leaf Lake, which had been proposed last month, are not to be exempted.

Only the loophole engine – an electronic fuel injection engine which is slightly cleaner than the carbureted engine – will have a temporary exemption, because several watercraft concessionaires purchased them after TRPA’s action in 1997, thinking the craft were acceptable.

Dave Roberts of the League to Save Lake Tahoe told the planning board that the environmental group supported the recommendation.

“I think it’s time we get beyond trying to slice out exemptions,” Roberts said. “I think it’s really problematic to try exempting (smaller, low-horsepower engines) in that they are the dirtiest of the dirty.”

After only a brief discussion, the advisory panel unanimously approved the recommendation. The regular meeting of the governing board is scheduled for Jan. 27.

TRPA governors in February 1997 banned carbureted two-stroke engines from Lake Tahoe, effective June 1, 1999, because they were believed to be a big source of water pollution.

However, the ordinance left room for changes, and numerous agencies – TRPA; the University of California, Davis; University of Nevada, Reno; California Air Resources Board; and more – studied motorized watercraft last summer.

They issued a report late last year, finding what TRPA officials felt supported the ordinance.

The ban has fueled a lawsuit which the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Lake Tahoe Watercraft Recreation Association and several watercraft rental firms filed in October 1997.

U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. dismissed most of the complaints in October of this year. But the watercraft plaintiffs filed an amended complaint shortly after.

Earlier this month, both attorneys general for Nevada and California announced they intended to help TRPA in its defense. A trial is scheduled for May.

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