Lawsuit doesn’t change TRPA’s stance |

Lawsuit doesn’t change TRPA’s stance

Andy Bourelle

Although Lake Tahoe’s bistate regulatory agency faces amended allegations from Jet Ski advocates and boat manufacturers, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has not changed its feelings on the lawsuit.

After claiming “near total victory” earlier this month when U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell, Jr. dismissed the watercraft industry’s complaint, TRPA hasn’t changed its mind.

“We didn’t win everything, but we kind of won the guts of the case,” said John Marshall, TRPA legal counsel, after the Oct. 2 ruling. “Now, they have to make what I think are very difficult arguments.”

In June 1997, TRPA passed an ordinance banning two-stroke engines used to power Jet Skis and other watercraft. The National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, the Lake Tahoe Watercraft Recreation Association and other businesses and individuals filed a lawsuit against TRPA in October 1997.

Damrell dismissed the suit in early October. However, he left room for the plaintiffs to re-file some of the complaints.

The new complaints, filed last week, allege that TRPA is illegally discriminating against the users of two-stroke engines, is creating an ordinance contrary to the Clean Air Act and that TRPA actions lacked adequate scientific support. TRPA allegedly violated its own compact by not preparing an environmental impact statement and by taking away recreational opportunities at Lake Tahoe.

However, TRPA is confident in its defense.

“It’s about the best shot they can take now, since the court has cut the rug out from under most of their argument,” Marshall said.

There is a stay on the case until December, because TRPA announced in July of this year that its ban on two-stroke engines – effective June 1, 1999 – would be replaced in December with an ordinance following emission regulations. The ordinance TRPA staff intends to propose to the board of governors will focus on emission standards rather than specific engine types. Officials have said a regulation on emissions will be easier to support scientifically as well as easier to enforce.

The change in the ordinance can affect the lawsuit, Marshall said.

“The plaintiffs then will kind of be on the hot seat to put up or shut up, to either continue with their argument, amend their complaint to deal with the new ordinance or to kind of throw up their hands,” Marshall said.

However, members of the other side don’t feel TRPA’s at that much of an advantage.

“As far as I’m concerned, the suit is progressing – as it should. That was the first step. (The lawsuit is) not going to go away,” said Robert Galvin, vice commodore of the South Tahoe Yacht Club and an individual named in the lawsuit. “In either case, – in TRPA’s case or in our case – it’s not over until it’s over.”

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