Agency probes marina |

Agency probes marina

Lake Tahoe Basin’s bistate planning authority has launched an investigation into the Tahoe Keys Marina for allegedly expanding its docks without authorization.

The inquiry was launched after a pair of Tahoe Keys residents complained to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board during a May public comment session on the marina’s proposed master plan.

“No permits have been issued, however, the plan seems to be moving along,” Tahoe Keys resident Paul Euchner said at the May hearing. “I’m tired of looking out my window and feeling like I’m in an industrial port – the entire expansion has gone unchecked.”

The 14-member governing board directed TRPA staff to compare current conditions at the marina with photos taken in 1980, the last time the master plan was reviewed.

A reconnaissance flight on June 13 indicated that the marina, which is already considered Lake Tahoe’s largest, had expanded beyond its legal capacity of 263 boats to 295 boats, according to a TRPA staff report.

“The master plan says they have 263 boats but there’s more than that out there right now,” said Brian Judge, a TRPA environmental specialist. “But there’s a debate about the definition of a slip – the bottom line is how many spaces for boats are there.”

Tahoe Keys Marina co-owner Dick Horton said there has been some reconfiguring of slips since 1980 to accommodate larger vessels, which he calls a recent trend in boating purchases. Horton said he doesn’t believe he has violated any TRPA regulations.

“The difficulty arises because the TRPA ordinance speaks of slips not boats,” Horton said. “TRPA guidelines for the master plan states that slips may be single or double wide. As a consequence, we have fewer slips but more boats and there seems to be a difference of opinion whether that’s appropriate or not.”

Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, a California state regulator on water standards, is worried that additional boats will contribute to higher levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, in the already troubled lake. PAHs, which are born from unburned boat fuel, wipe out the zooplankton at the base of Lake Tahoe’s food chain and are considered harmful to fish gills. This comes in addition to Tahoe’s declining water clarity, which is fading at the rate of more than a foot each year.

“We feel like some of the things they are going to do, such as additional water clarity improvements, will be an improvement but we are concerned with the increase in boating,” said Lauri Kemper, chief of Lahontan’s Lake Tahoe watershed unit. “This gets to the PAHs issue.”

Don Miner, vice chair of TRPA’s governing board, called the marina’s alleged violations minor and vague at this point.

“We need to come up with better definitions – is it boats, people or slips that we’re limiting?” Miner said. “There were no more slips than what was permitted in 1980 but the boats are bigger and the slips are bigger, and we have no control over that.”

Instead of counting boats and slips, TRPA staff member Judge said a better assessment may be determined in how much water is covered by vessels and docks.

The creep in water coverage at the marina has been incremental over 20 years, Judge said. It could take some time to come up with an appropriate solution.

“Something that happened over a 20-year period doesn’t get solved as quickly as something that occurred in a month,” Judge said.

Horton said, whatever the requirements, he and his business partner Ray Carreau plan to bring the marina into full compliance with TRPA code.

“This master plan process was started more than five years ago, and we’ve invested $300,000 in it so far,” he said. “It can become a very discouraging and a very expensive proposition. You can spend the money without ever knowing what you’re going to end up with.”

The Tahoe Keys Marina Master Plan proposes an additional 150 boat slips to the 178 currently existing; a 3,000-square-foot expansion of the restaurant facility and an increase in parking spaces from 154 to 274. Public comment period on the draft plan has ended.

If the master plan gets final approval from the TRPA, Lahontan Water Quality Control Board has recommended that the expansion move forward in small steps to monitor environmental impacts.

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