2-stroke ban loses impact | TahoeDailyTribune.com

2-stroke ban loses impact

Andy Bourelle

The anticipated amendments to Lake Tahoe’s bistate regulatory agency’s motorized watercraft ban may not end up being very significant, officials said.

The Advisory Planning Commission of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Thursday received an update on the work under way to address the ban. The governing board of TRPA in 1997 banned personal watercraft and two-stroke carbureted engines from being used at Lake Tahoe, effective June 1, 1999. TRPA staff earlier this year indicated the ban would be revised on more of an emission standard.

However, at the meeting, TRPA staff indicated those banned watercraft likely would not pass the emission standard either.

“We’re not seeing we need to make any radical changes to the ordinance,” Gabby Barrett, a senior planner for TRPA, explained to the planning commission. “If anything, we’re just looking at refining it to make it better.”

TRPA’s governing board will have a similar workshop at its Nov. 18 meeting. Both the APC and governing board likely will take action on the issue at their December meetings.

TRPA staff and other agencies are in the process of compiling a report for the December meetings. Work from a variety of organizations is being considered: In-lake watercraft tests by the University of Nevada, Reno; watercraft tank tests conducted by the California Air Resources Board; lake and stream monitoring by the U.S. Geological Survey; MTBE monitoring by the University of California, Davis, Tahoe Research Group; and a boating-use survey developed by the Nevada Division of Wildlife and California Boating and Waterways.

Researchers and the APC board discussed the preliminary data for three hours.

Although giving TRPA staff some direction, the APC board members indicated they felt the staff was on the right track with its research.

The presenters included:

n Marla Mueller, air pollution specialist for the California Air Resources Board, who explained that her board likely will adopt an emission standard in December with more stringent regulations than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has adopted.

There are three tiers potentially to be adopted: Phases for 2001, 2004 and 2006. The 2001 tier would be more stringent than the U.S. EPA’s 2006 requirement.

Barrett explained that the engines currently addressed by TRPA’s ban would not meet those standards. However, he said the CARB regulations are only for manufacturing new boats.

n Carol Boughton, a researcher for USGS, who said research the past summer has found MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – and BTEX compounds – benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene – in varying degrees in Lake Tahoe and Lower Echo and Fallen Leaf lakes. In Upper Angora, where no motorized watercraft is used, researchers found none of the compounds.

Benzene is a known human carcinogen, MTBE is classified by the U.S. EPA as a possible human carcinogen and toluene is known to cause birth defects.

MTBE was detected between 0.54 and 5.6 parts per billion at all near-shore locations. Traces of MTBE were discovered as deep as 100 feet. BTEX compounds also were detected at all near-shore locations.

n Brant Allen of the Tahoe Research Group who said researchers were starting to put all the information together from the various reports.

Stressing that the data was preliminary, he said although 11 percent of the gallons of gasoline used on the lake were from personal watercraft and two-stroke engines, 90 percent of the lake MTBE contamination came from those engines.

“Those numbers are going to change, but they’re not going to flip flop,” Allen said. “The relative balance will not change.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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