Few changes likely for TRPA watercraft plan | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Few changes likely for TRPA watercraft plan

Andy Bourelle

If the January meeting of the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency goes like the one Wednesday, the ban on the use of certain types of motorized watercraft in the Lake Tahoe Basin will remain in effect with only minor amendments.

However, if it goes like Wednesday’s meeting, the changes will come after a lot of discussion.

The watercraft issue was addressed for more than four hours Wednesday, with TRPA governors agreeing on most amendments but disagreeing on what – if any – types of watercraft should be exempted from the regulations.

One type of fuel-injected two-stoke engines was considered OK by TRPA’s original ban; however, TRPA staff now is recommending that those engines – a “loophole” in the ordinance – be banned, also, with a one-year extension.

At the meeting, TRPA governors agreed upon giving those craft an extension until 2001.

Other exemptions could not be agreed upon.

“I don’t think we should carve out any other exemptions,” said Wayne Chimarusti, the Nevada at-large member of the board. “This has been coming for a long time. People should have known about it.”

Jim Galloway, the Washoe County Commission representative, said the board should exempt small two-stroke motors between 4 and 10 horsepower as well as small motors for sail boats, because the damage they cause is small in comparison with other types of engines such as Jet Skis and personal watercraft.

“I will not be able to support or vote for any ordinance without those exemptions,” he said.

TRPA staff indicated the exemptions could cause the appearance of a “weakening” of the ban and possibly have a negative impact on the lawsuit pending against TRPA from the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

John Marshall, TRPA legal counsel, said it could make the the ordinance “in some measure less defensible.”

“If you try to do something like this, you basically weaken what you did before,” said Jim Baetge, TRPA executive director.

John Upton, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors representative, suggested an exemption for the Fallen Leaf Lake fire district, which owns a boat used to fight fires. It has a two-stroke engine and would not be able to upgrade it by the June 1 deadline.

“You’re putting a fire district in an impossible situation,” Upton said.

Kay Bennett, the Carson City Board of Supervisors representative, said she felt it set a poor precedent if TRPA was exempting government agencies.

“I don’t feel government entities should be exempted,” she said. “We now enable all government entities to postpone implementation of this ordinance for another year. In principle, I oppose it.”

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

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.

TRPA’s Advisory Planning Commission endorsed the staff recommendation at a meeting last week.

Several members of the public spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, addressing their concerns with the ordinance.

Larie Trippett, the former owner of a watercraft rental concession on North Shore, said he felt the report shows that the damage caused by motorized watercraft to Lake Tahoe was minor.

“What’s going on in the water is very close to undetectable or negligible,” he said. “I don’t see any emergency or crisis that warrants banning the watercraft.”

Bob Hassett, owner of a rental concession, said he was concerned that the “loophole” engine now being banned might reflect poorly on future actions take by the board.

“I plan on going with the new technology as soon as its available,” he said. “I would like to hear something: ‘These won’t be banned in a few years.'”

The governing board is expected to take action on the issue in January.

Other issues addressed by TRPA Wednesday included:

n The issue of amending regulations for grazing practices and livestock containment facilities was continued until the January meeting.

n The governing board received brief presentations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and South Tahoe Public Utility District on the status of the utility district’s export pipeline project.

Controversy surrounded the project earlier this year when STPUD and EPA could not agree on $7.15 million that was appropriated by Congress for the pipeline project.

The district’s 1999 phase of the project has been canceled, but the two agencies are still working to come up with a plan to get the money to STPUD.

“We are, in my opinion, on the same page with the district now,” said Ken Greenberg, a member of EPA’s Lake Tahoe project team.

The pipeline carries 1.7 billion gallons of recycled water 26 miles to Alpine County each year, where it irrigates more than 2,000 acres of ranch land. Originally built in the 1960s, under mandate to pump wastewater out of the basin, the pipeline had experienced breaks and spills.

STPUD has replaced the most leak-prone sections of the pipeline and, even with the delay, is years ahead of a schedule acceptable to the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board.

n The Nevada Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board – the Nevada members of the governing board – met prior to the meeting to appoint the 1999 at-large member to the board.

By a unanimous vote, the NTRPA board approved Brian Sandoval of Reno to fill the seat previously held by Las Vegas casino executive Steve Wynn.

Sandoval is an attorney, a member of the Nevada State Gaming Commission and previous member of the Nevada State Legislature.

In his letter of interest, Sandoval stated: “I have a great affinity for Lake Tahoe and have a proven record for being an advocate for its preservation. Membership on the board would provide me with the opportunity to continue this work.”

Wynn, who served from 1995 to 1998, announced his resignation at the TRPA’s August meeting. Wynn, chairman of Mirage Resorts, had indicated his reasons for leaving TRPA were because of time constraints, facilitated by the company’s work to open the $1.6 billion Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas in October and $600 million Beau Rivage set to open in Biloxi, Miss., in February.

Wayne Chimarusti, a Carson City attorney, is completing the remainder of Wynn’s 1998 term. Chimarusti had been Wynn’s predecessor, having previously served on the governing board for six years.

NTRPA had 13 applicants for the 1999 Nevada at-large seat.

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