Ferry idea under study | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Ferry idea under study

Kara Fox
Here is model image of a ferry that could come to Lake Tahoe after the federal government promised $8 million for a water transportation system.

Plans for a ferry service across Lake Tahoe are moving ahead a year after Congress approved $8 million for the project, but the idea could be years away, according to a local planning agency.

“The waterborne transportation proposal is a long-range planning effort to improve air quality, transportation and quality of life in the basin,” said Jeff Cowen, community liaison for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “There is no timeline. This could be years in the making.”

The project is in the study phase and Caltrans has committed $65,000 for a site selection study to determine the best place to become a service hub. Sites currently being considered include the Tahoe City Marina, Ski Run Marina in South Lake and another undetermined site near Stateline, said Cowen.

Other marinas or towns that want to be considered as a potential site can pay $15,000 to join the study. The Incline Village General Improvement District recently heard a proposal to add the IVGID-owned Hermit Beach to the site selection study, which was met with opposition from community and board members.

“IVGID is not behind it,” said Bill Horn, the district’s general manager. “Legally we don’t have a choice. We fought for private beaches and now we have to defend them.”

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is heading the project, but the Tahoe Transportation District, which is made up of local jurisdictions, Caltrans and the Nevada Department of Transportation, decided on the type of ferry they would like to see used.

The Solar Sailor is “everyone’s favorite,” but there are no guarantees that it will be chosen as the passenger-carrying vessel, Cowen said.

The Solar Sailor, which will be used on the San Francisco Bay, is a solar-powered catamaran with solar panels that can lift up and catch wind, but it is mostly powered by the sun.

“We’re looking at the Solar Sailor as being the dream boat,” Cowen noted.

No studies have been done on which types of waterborne transportation would cause the least amount of pollution or erosion control, Cowen said.

When the proposal was approved by Congress last summer, it was mentioned that the money would be used to purchase two 100- to 200- passenger vessels for point-to-point service between the north and south shores.

Boats were once the most dependable way to transport people and supplies around the 193-square-mile lake. But the largest of the old vessels, the 169-foot SS Tahoe that launched in 1896, became too costly to operate and was scuttled 65 years ago.

Now tour boats and pleasure craft ply the lake, but there are no large boats to carry scores of passengers from one end of the lake to the other in about the same time it takes to drive a car – 45 minutes to an hour – and all for a low fare.

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