Agency chief: Boat ban not a done deal
Councilmembers were stirred to debate, but seemed satisfied with a discussion Tuesday on Emerald Bay boating issues with John Singlaub, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
Singlaub addressed many questions from the council and public about TRPA’s reasoning on the proposed, once-a-week motorboat ban in Emerald Bay.
At the same time, Singlaub seemed to calm those present by saying the proposal is not a done deal, and the agency is open to other ideas and encourages public discussion.
“A good healthy discussion always leads to a good solution,” Councilmember Hal Cole said at the end of the session.
No one on the council agreed a ban was appropriate.
“I don’t think the solution is banning,” Mayor Kathay Lovell said. “The challenge is figuring out the balance between environment and regulation.”
Many expressed concern the TRPA is proposing another regulation when rules already on the books are not being enforced, such as a 600-foot no-wake zone and a 15-mph speed limit in Emerald Bay.
Singlaub said the agency’s enforcement power is limited.
Some wondered whether enforcement of present rules could help reduce pollution, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, that are building up over summer months.
These pollutants usually dissipate after seven to 10 days. However, there is so much boat traffic on the bay during summer, TRPA is getting constant detections during July and August.
The agency says it must protect a status given to Lake Tahoe by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA’s Outstanding National Resource Water status prohibits “long-term degradation.” Pollution detections for more than a month are considered long-term.
The PAHs have not been detected during winter. They are not at levels during summer which could harm human health, fish, or lake clarity.
Lew Long, commodore of the South Lake Tahoe Yacht Club, brought up Coast Guard jurisdiction on Lake Tahoe.
“This is a federal body of water which includes Emerald Bay, and the Coast Guard has ultimate control of navigation,” Long said. He questioned whether it was legal for the TRPA to regulate navigation and recommended the agency obtain a legal opinion from the Coast Guard 11th District.
Singlaub said the Coast Guard is responsible for navigation at the lake, while TRPA is responsible for the environment.
TRPA long-term planner Coleen Shade has said in other meetings that if the TRPA can prove an environmental cause, it may regulate navigation on the lake.
The proposed ban is not mentioned in the water quality chapter of Alternative 6, a sixth option for how TRPA could regulate Tahoe’s lakeshore area. However, it is mentioned in the chapter on recreation as having a positive impact for non-motorized watercraft like kayaks, canoeists and sailboaters.
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