Boating community united: no threat from two-strokes |

Boating community united: no threat from two-strokes

Patrick McCartney

If the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency follows through on a proposal to phase out two-stroke engines on Lake Tahoe by 1999, it won’t be because of any threat to the lake as demonstrated in an environmental assessment.

That’s the unanimous view of members of Lake Tahoe’s boating community, who say the agency’s environmental review failed to document any great threat to Lake Tahoe’s water quality posed by two-stroke engines.

“They do not have any substantial evidence to conclude that two-stroke engines are doing any harm to the lake,” said Bob Hassett, who owns Action Watersports boating concession in South Lake Tahoe and Incline Village.

Hassett is one of about 15 concession owners at Lake Tahoe who say the proposed regulation could harm the local industry, which grosses about $3 million in annual revenues and employs about 30 people.

Saying he is trying to keep an open mind about the topic, Hassett said he nevertheless did not find any substantiation in the environmental review to conclude that recreational boating is a threat to the lake.

“I hope (the governing board) will be rational,” Hassett said. “Otherwise, they are going up a river without the support behind them.”

In its report, the TRPA concludes that two-stroke engines emit far more hydrocarbons into the lake and atmosphere than four-stroke engines, even though the cleaner four-stroke engines are more numerous.

Current two-stroke engines, which emit up to 25 percent of their fuel unburned, accounted for about 775 gallons of fuel into the lake each day in 1994, compared to the 154 gallons estimated for four-stroke engines, according to the report.

Under the proposed phase-out of carbureted two-stroke engines, the amount of discharged fuel from two-stroke engines would be reduced to nothing by the year 2004, but rise to 235 gallons a day for four-stroke engines.

Under a third alternative, which would exempt auxiliary motors on sailboats and two-stroke engines under 10 hp typically used for fishing, fuel emissions would fall to 45 gallons a day from two-strokes by 2004.

The figures do not reveal a threat to the lake, say boaters.

“The hard data shows a decrease in boating that does not support the projections for the years 2004 and 2020,” said John Fagan, an attorney representing the boating industry. “I don’t believe the report provides the documentation they need to make a reasoned decision.”

Vic Beelik, commodore of the Windjammer Yacht Club, said the small engines that provide auxiliary power to sailboats do not consume nearly as much fuel as other two-stroke engines.

“Jet Skis burn as much as five gallons of fuel an hour, and we don’t use that much in six months,” Beelik said. “It’s not smart to punish sailboats by outlawing an engine they hardly use. We should encourage sailing as a cleaner water sport.”

Robert Galvin, a rear commodore of the South Lake Tahoe Yacht Club, said the only testing of Lake Tahoe water – a survey of water suppliers – showed no presence of hydrocarbon contamination.

“There is no scientific evidence at the lake of a problem,” Galvin said. “The report is not really an environmental assessment. They have no scientific facts to back up their claims.”

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