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Facts support jet ski ban

Sean Smith, Guest Columnist

Dentist Russell Anders’ recent guest column left the impression that the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s (TRPA) ban on two-stroke motors is misguided, and Donner Lake area residents need not worry about the displacement of jet ski use from Lake Tahoe to Donner Lake. Dr. Anders’ column provides misleading and incorrect interpretations of the facts that justify a two-stroke prohibition, and should raise concerns for Donner area residents.

1. Two-cycle motor emissions “do not significantly affect aquatic ecosystems”.

Studies around the world disprove this statement. Even a study funded by the National Marine Manufacturers Association discovered that two-stroke emissions caused a reduction in fish growth by 46 percent. Dr. James Oris’ research concluded that “exhaust components from motorized watercraft caused photoactivated toxicity to fish and zooplankton as well as direct toxicity to zooplankton.”

2. The exhaust hydrocarbons remain in the water column for a relatively short time, less than a day.

Only some jet ski gasoline compounds evaporate in the first day. Nonetheless, gasoline compounds damage the aquatic ecosystem in the first 24 hours. In fact, a Michigan State University study says that the argument about evaporation is “moot” because “the time to maximum effect [damage] is just a few minutes to a few hours in the surface water of lakes.”

3. The average engine will contribute 2.5 percent of its fuel to the water.

Two-strokes dump an average of 25 to 30 percent of their fuel “unburned, out the tailpipe” according to every major agency that has studied these engines. This figure is uncontested. Even the engine manufacturers themselves did not challenge this number during days of hearings before California Air Resources Board this past December. Jet skis discharge much more gasoline than conventional boats simply because they consume, and therefore emit, more fuel on a per hour basis. A modern jet ski dumps between 2 to 4 gallons of its fuel mixture in that time. That’s hundreds, if not thousands, of gallons of toxic fuel compounds into Donner Lake every busy summer weekend.

Many believe that concerns about jet skis are merely prejudice. But wildlife biologists throughout North America have testified that jet skis inflict greater damage to wildlife than conventional boats. According to the director of the North American Loon Fund, jet skis are the greatest current threat to breeding loon populations. A Rutgers University study observed jet skis skimming the edge of islands, and running over Common Tern nests containing eggs or chicks. This study concluded that waterfowl respond “significantly more” to jet skis compared to motorboats.

Noise will also be problematic at Donner lake. Federal experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have testified that jet ski noise has a greater impact upon humans and wildlife because the inconsistent pitch is more annoying than the constant frequency emitted by conventional motorboats. Even the Bombardier’s new, allegedly quieter Sea Doo Gtx-RFI produces noise up to 101 dB. By comparison, a busy street produces 85 dB.

Dr. Anders’ concludes his column with the all too familiar industry mantra that better law enforcement and mandatory education will solve most jet ski problems. But one look at a jet ski magazine confirms that the “bad apples” are operating their craft exactly the way the industry markets, designs and intends them to be used. In addition, education and law enforcement will not prevent water, air and noise pollution, and cannot eliminate the risks and damages that are inherent with jet ski use. And increased law enforcement costs local residents money, not visiting jet skiers.

Countless communities from San Juan County, Washington, to Monroe County,

Florida have concluded that the only way to protect their way of life,

health, economy, environment, safety and wildlife was to ban jet ski use.

Last year, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld San Juan county’s ban,

putting to rest the argument that jet ski bans are unconstitutional and

discriminatory.

When deciding the fate of jet ski use in your area, let the facts speak for

themselves. And don’t let the interests of a few ruin outdoor resources

preserved for everyone.

For more information on the damaging impacts jet skis cause to the environment, wildlife, public safety, natural tranquility, and public health please see Bluewater Network’s website at http://www.earthisland.org/bw.

Sean Smith is conservation director of the Bluewater Network, a San Francisco-base environmental group


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