Watercraft committee’s recommendations prompt more than 100 letters | SierraSun.com
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Watercraft committee’s recommendations prompt more than 100 letters

JOHN A. BAYLESS, Sierra Sun

A proposal by a town council subcommittee to place more restrictive speed limits and limit the use of motorized craft on Donner Lake spurred public interest and prompted many letters to the town and to the Sierra Sun.

In general, letters are divided 50/50 in opinion, Town Manager Steve Wright said.

“I’ve probably had 100 letters,” Wright said. “They cover the entire gamut – some say ban all jet skis; some say don’t do anything. Some are concerned with the impact of the time limits on water skiers, while others are concerned about the impact of a ban on the economy. Many offer different variations of a ban or time constraints.”

Council will consider the issue in its meeting tonight at 6 in the Truckee-Donner Public Utility District boardroom.

He said other options have been suggested, including limiting the number of boats on the lake and having stronger enforcement.

Wright said Truckee’s consideration of restricting personal watercraft was posted on an personal watercraft website, prompting e-mails from personal watercraft owners all over the country – and even one from England. He said all of the watercraft owners who sent e-mail were opposed to the ban.

“I would expect a large turnout Thursday night,” Wright said. “Two television stations have already said they are are bringing crews.”

More than 40 residents attended the last meeting on the topic, which lasted for several hours.

He said reaction to the council proposal has been mixed, but none of the letter-writers on either side appear satisfied with it.

“Some don’t like it because it isn’t strong enough; some don’t like it because it is too strong,” Wright said. “The question is whether that shows we are on the right track with this.”

Some Truckee residents first expressed concern in an April council meeting that the ban of two-stroke watercraft on Lake Tahoe might result in crowding on Donner Lake, unless council took steps to control the situation.

Councilmembers Bob Drake and Don McCormack served as a council subcommittee to address the problem of personal watercraft on Donner Lake, and drafted a report which will be introduced in tonight’s council meeting. The report proposed controls which would affect all watercraft.

“A wide variety of options were submitted from the public, ranging from ‘ban all motorized craft,’ to ‘do nothing,’ the report noted. “The committee is suggesting a measured approach to try to accommodate the very wide variety of interests surrounding this issue. Clearly, pollution, safety, personal rights and business interests are all at issue here. Legally, it is also clear that regulations, like speed limits, must apply to all motorized watercraft, not just personal watercraft. These recommended rules are in addition to existing policies.

The subcommittee report recommends that the town restrict lake use for all motorized craft between Memorial Day and Labor Day by establishing the following speed limits:

– On Saturdays (Saturdays and Sundays on holiday weekends) 35 mph from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There would be a 10 mph limit at all other times.

– On Sundays (except holiday weekends) 10 mph all day. On holiday weekends, a 10 mph limit would be enforced on the Monday following the weekend.

– If a holiday falls on a day other than a Monday, that holiday shall be treated the same as a Saturday – 35 mph from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A 10-mph limit would be enforced at all other times.

– On weekdays (except holiday Mondays) a 35 mph limit would be enforced – the current policy.

– Expand publicity related to the new regulations as widely as possible.

The subcommittee also recommended:

– Implementing increased lake rules awareness both at ramps and in lake rental outlets.

– Implementing the current permit provisions of the existing town ordinance placing a limit of 12 personal watercraft allowable through rental outlets and a requirement that fuel at rental outlets be MTBE-free.

– Instituting strict enforcement on the lake for all issues – give more tickets and less warnings.

“It is the committee’s feeling that after the implementation of the new rules, lake activity be constantly monitored and at the least, in October, the committee and council re-evaluate the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of these actions and adjust accordingly,” the report stated.

According to the report, the goal of the proposed policies is to reduce pollution, improve safety, continue to allow fishing and other low speed activities at all times, allow some personal watercraft and other motorized craft higher speed use, allow for more ‘tranquil’ hours on and around the lake, potentially encourage high speed users to frequent other less-regulated lakes and more actively penalize users who violate lake policies.

Any regulations approved by town council must be reviewed and certified by the California Department of Boating and Waterways, so it will take about 30-45 days for any new law to take effect upon approval.

Since the town must submit any proposed regulations to the state for approval, it is also sending in some other, more restrictive laws than those currently proposed in case they are necessary later.

The other submissions (which are not part of the current recommendation to council) include year-round speed limits, adopting the TRPA ban on two-stroke engines, limiting the number of boats on the lake and restricting motorized use on certain parts of the lake.


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