North Lake Tahoe Bonanza editorial: Safety must be top priority on our water |

North Lake Tahoe Bonanza editorial: Safety must be top priority on our water

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza editorial staff.

LAKE TAHOE — Simply put, it’s been a tough calendar year for boats on Lake Tahoe that are critiqued a lot more heavily in the public eye.

From the public side of things, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Marine 9 rescue boat that patrols the Incline Village portion of the lake sank on Memorial Day 2014. Then its Marine 10 rescue boat — moved here to replace 9 to ensure lifesaving efforts could still happen if needed — took on water in July and sank, forcing the department’s last boat, Marine 20, to make the trip up the hill. Luckily, 20 stayed afloat.

Then there’s the private side of things, specifically with the Tahoe Queen. About 300 passengers who paid to ride the paddle wheeler were evacuated in early August after the Queen ran aground a mile off Tahoe’s South Shore, stuck on a sandbar, the victim of a worsening drought situation.

This was followed with whatever happened (media reports and commentary from the U.S. Coast Guard differ) overnight on New Year’s Eve, when about 200 paying guests were reportedly stranded for about two hours a couple hundred yards from the vessel’s dock.

For the sheriff’s office, news this week that a new and high-tech boat is coming in time for boating season this year is comforting — but there’s still work to be done. The ability to provide a stable docking location on Tahoe for Marine 9 is obviously a major question mark.

With our drought clearly only worsening, more and more people are taking to Lake Tahoe for recreation — and that means the odds of people needing to be rescued are only going to rise. We need to see forward thinking sooner rather than later from the sheriff’s office, TRPA, U.S. Coast Guard and other entities, both private and public, to work together and help solve this years-long problem of not having a secure docking location.

As for the Queen, the Coast Guard made the right call to ground the vessel merely a day into 2015 to fix what officials say are unrelated mechanical problems. It’s not ideal for the Queen’s owner, Aramark, which is likely missing out on revenue. But in the interest of public safety, it needed to be done.

Further, we feel it needs to stay grounded — even if its mechanical issues are fixed — until we learn of what really happened on New Year’s, because it’s a concern for us that Coast Guard investigators have been adamant that the mechanical problems had no effect, yet they apparently can’t decide if the paddle wheeler ran aground or was stalled by high winds.

Until we can conclusively determine what happened, how can we be assured the feds and/or Aramark have established appropriate checks and balances to overcome the issue and ensure safety?

If we can’t, then it puts a whole new meaning to Aramark’s slogan for the Queen: “The cruise lasts a few hours … the memories last forever.”

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