Blue boating does not mean blue skies
Tahoe Daily Tribune
The newly enacted Blue Boating Program does not aggressively curtail ozone related emissions from motorized boats, said a representative from a local environmental organization.
“The blue boating program is wholly inadequate in terms of doing what is required to reduce emissions in the basin,” said Carl Young, program director at the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “There are good parts of the program, but more can be done.”
Young said while there are significantly less boats than automobiles in the basin annually, technology to reduce emissions from boat engines has not kept pace with clean car innovations.
“A typical speed boat engine can spew out 1600 times as much ozone-prodcuing gases as a Subaru. There should be a requirement for catalytic converters on all boat engines,” said Young. “This could substantially reduce air pollutants.”
Shane Romsos, TRPA science, monitoring and evaluation program manager, said Young’s claim regarding boats emitting more ozone precursors than car needs to be backed up by more scientific data
“That has to be fact-checked,” he said. “5 to 10 years ago, that may have been true, but that has to be put in context in terms of a more current timeline.”
Romsos said the Blue Boating Program funds data collection efforts, which will provide a more clear picture of boating’s impact on air quality.
“During the first year we will be collecting empirical data which can serve as the basis for future policies,” he said. “We don’t want to take draconian measures (against recreational boaters) without having a good reason.”
Nevertheless, Romsos vowed the agency would continue to monitor the potential affects of boating on air quality, but said that factors such as transportation infrastructure and wood burning are more significant factors in ozone levels.
Young’s critique comes in the wake of an announcement by the California Air Resources Board revealing the Tahoe basin is out of compliance with California state ozone regulations.
Studies found the Tahoe basin air .077 ozone gas parts per million over an eight hour period. The state regulations require .070 parts per million over the same duration.
Federal standards require .075 parts per million, however the Environmental Protection Agency has a complex formula for assessing whether an area is in compliance with federal regulations and according to this formula the Tahoe basin complies, according to Dimitri Stanich, Public Information Officer with the California Air Resources Board.
“The implications for falling short on standards include a danger to public health and safety,” said Stanich. “If the region falls short of federal standards, transportation funds could be withheld and they could mandate new planning standards to help attain air quality standards.”
Romsos said the exceedance of California state was slight and factors such as forest fires from surrounding areas affect statistical collection.
“This is not to excuse exceedance of standards, but when compared to surrounding areas, especially Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Tahoe basin has a high level of air quality,” he said.
A recent study conducted by CARB shows the emissions released in the basin are generated in the basin and do not migrate from large metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and Sacramento.
“The transport of pollutants in any significant measure from the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento Valley air basins to the Tahoe Basin is counter-indicated by meteorological processes,” the study stated. “Upslope surface winds are typically too slow to transport significantly high concentrations of pollutants the full distance to the Tahoe Basin before surface winds reverse in the evening (due to density-driven drainage flow as the mountain slopes cool).”
The study corroborates that Tahoe is in charge of it’s own air quality and stricter standards on emissions could have a significant impact, said Young.
Romsos agreed with the findings, but said while the impacts of ozone migration from surrounding metropolitan areas are moderated by mountain crests and wind reversals, air quality in the basin is still influenced by those areas.
“Air masses do migrate,” he said. “The crest in the Desolation Wilderness disperses the magnitude of those masses, but the basin receives pollution from outside areas.”
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