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California regulators making TRPA’s job easier

Andy Bourelle

Lake Tahoe regulators received help last week from the California Air Resources Board.

Although the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s upcoming ban on certain boating engines is not based on recently adopted CARB standards, the regulations complement each other.

“I think what the Air Resource Board has done, and to a certain extent (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), is to identify that emissions from motorized watercraft is a serious issue,” said Pam Drum, TRPA public affairs coordinator. “It’s not just a Lake Tahoe issue. It’s a state issue, and it’s a nationwide issue.”



In Sacramento last Thursday, CARB unanimously approved rules to sharply cut pollutants from new two-stroke and four-stroke engines – used in Jet Skis, motor boats, light-weight jet boats and small fishing boats – beginning in 2001. The rules – far more stringent that any other state or federal watercraft emissions regulations – will take effect in 2001, limiting the sale of craft that don’t pass the standard.

CARB’s 2001 standard corresponds with the U.S. EPA’s 2006 standard, and the regulations will be tightened in phases through 2008.



TRPA’s ban on carbureted two-stroke engines, effective June 1999, is different because it singles out engine types. However, the watercraft motors that won’t pass the CARB 2001 standard are the types of engines being banned.

“At Lake Tahoe, we will have already felt the impact by the time the Air Resources Board regulations go into effect,” Drum said.

The difference between the state and regional regulations, also, is that TRPA is not allowing the extended use – or grandfathering – of any type of watercraft while the CARB regulations will. However, the CARB ruling will help TRPA with enforcement, because California watercraft passing either CARB’s 2001, 2006 or 2008 standards will be identified with a sticker. Any of those watercraft are acceptable to TRPA.

“I think, here at Lake Tahoe, it combines really well with what TRPA is doing,” said Lauri Kemper, chief of the Lake Tahoe division of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Kemper spoke at the hearing, supporting the regulation and explaining to the board some watercraft research Lahontan completed with the University of Nevada, Reno, over the summer.

“It’s definitely a huge improvement over the current situation,” Kemper said. “We’re really supportive of it as a statewide issue.”

The Lahontan/UNR research recently was compiled with other research from CARB, the University of California, Davis, the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies in a report used to assist TRPA in amending its watercraft ordinances.

Although TRPA had indicated earlier this year that it probably would go to an emissions standard rather than a ban on engine types, the report prompted TRPA staff to stick to its ban – originally taken action on in February 1997 – with only minor revisions.

TRPA’s Advisory Planning Commission endorsed the staff recommendation at a meeting last week. TRPA’s governing board will look at the staff’s recommendations at its meeting this week and likely will look at the issue for action in January.

Personal watercraft spew more than 100 tons of pollutants into California’s air on a singe summer day, according to CARB. The two-stroke engines are the most polluting of the craft, according to CARB, and also pour unburned gasoline into the water.

The total amount of fuel used on Lake Tahoe during the 1998 boating season was estimated to be about 1.5 million gallons, according to TRPA. Two-stroke carbureted engines used only about 11 to 12 percent of that total, but they were believed to cause most of the gasoline compound loading in the water, including 90 percent of the MTBE and 70 percent of the benzene.

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