Boating proposals raise ire
Lake Tahoe’s California legislators will meet at 10 a.m. today in Sacramento with John Singlaub of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and California Department of Parks and Recreation staff to discuss two recent moves to limit boating activity in Emerald Bay.
California Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, and Sen. Dave Cox, R-Roseville, said they hope “to get to the bottom of this,” and have some questions answered regarding the two moves targeting boating in Emerald Bay.
A TRPA proposal to ban motorboats from the bay for one day a weekend during summer, combined with an announcement by the parks department that it will enforce restrictions on overnight mooring on the lake, have been received as a double blow by some Lake Tahoe city, legislative and economic leaders.
“I’m extremely doubtful that this is necessary,” Leslie said. “And I’m getting darn sick and tired of TRPA coming out of nowhere with these ideas that throw the community into complete turmoil.”
Cox and Leslie said their offices have received a steady stream of negative comments on TRPA’s proposal.
“We are very much concerned of the impact this would have on Lake Tahoe’s economy,” said Cox.
Both leaders expressed concern that the public was not allowed to vet the proposal.
Two representatives of the public on the TRPA’s shorezone committee have told the Tribune in recent discussions that they had never heard of the proposed motorboat ban. Jan Brisco of the Tahoe Lakefront Homeowners Association and Ron Williams of Tahoe Keys Boat Rental both had not heard of the proposal until reading a Tribune article last month.
Coleen Shade, lead long-term planner at the TRPA, said the issue was not widely discussed at committee meetings.
Nothing is set in stone regarding Emerald Bay, according to TRPA’s spokesperson Julie Regan. The next couple of months are the public’s opportunity to comment on Alternative 6, a new proposal for regulations regarding Tahoe’s lakeshore, which includes additional buoys and piers, and contains the proposed ban at Emerald Bay.
The proposal is meant to address pollution detected at Emerald Bay, which has been found at four other areas of the lake. The pollution is not at levels that could harm human health, fish or lake clarity, according to TRPA and Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.
The pollution is an issue because the agency is required to protect Lake Tahoe’s status as a National Outstanding Resource Water, a designation under the Environmental Protection Agency.
But Leslie said this designation has no tangible benefit, according to the research he’s done.
“What does this status get you?” he said. “It gets you nothing but more regulation.”
Mono Lake and Crater Lake are the only waters which share this status in the West. TRPA has said it is a “very special” designation.
Meanwhile, a parks decision to enforce a ban on overnight stays at Emerald Bay – except at the boat camp – has poured salt on wounds from the TRPA’s proposal.
“The chamber finds it an amazing coincidence that these two happened at the same time,” said Duane Wallace, CEO of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce. “My board is researching the issue. We think it will have a dramatic effect on our economy and we can’t let it go unanswered.”
Officials across the board at TRPA and State Parks have denied that there is any connection between the two moves, or that any meetings or phone calls discussed the issue before last week, after the decisions had been made.
In an e-mail addressed to Sen. Cox and Assemblyman Leslie, and other prominent members of the community, Wallace said comments he’d received claimed TRPA pressured an employee at State Parks to start enforcing the ban.
But Brian Barton and Jeff Herman of State Parks, as well as Regan and Shade at TRPA, both deny any conversation occurred between the staff at the two agencies on the issue prior to the two announcements.
City Manager Dave Jinkens also wrote Sen. Cox and Assemblyman Leslie, calling the parks department’s decision “ill conceived.”
“The general public, business community, and local governments have had no time to respond to the rule, discuss alternatives to its enforcement, remedies to perceived problems or prepare for the impact of it.”
Herman and Barton said the Parks Department will not be writing citations because of limited manpower. They hope to educate the public on the existing regulation and ask for voluntary compliance.
Violations are a misdemeanor and punishment would be decided by the court, if a citation were issued, they said.
State Parks is concerned about litter, possible damage to historical relics at the bottom of the bay, as well as boats that beach on habitat for the endangered Tahoe yellow cress.
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