Lobbying fierce over watercraft | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lobbying fierce over watercraft

According to the commodore of the Windjammer Yacht Club, it would be unfair for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board to include auxiliary sailboat engines in a proposed phase-out of older two-stroke engines.

“In a vote of the membership, we decided that two-cycle engines under 10 horsepower should be exempted,” said Vic Beelik. “Obviously, the engines don’t use more than five or 10 gallons of fuel a season, so their contribution of emissions to the lake is negligible.”

The yacht club is not alone in its lobbying of the TRPA to exempt different types of two-stroke motors from the proposed regulation. Next month, the agency’s governing board will consider banning two-stroke engines that rely on carburetors by 1999, saying that the engines emit too much unburnt fuel into the lake.

“The biggest input to us right now are the requests for exemptions. That’s the struggle between now and when the board votes in June,” said Gordon “Gabby” Barrett, a TRPA principal planner. “The yachting clubs want auxiliary engines exempted. Fishing and Wildlife are after us to exempt fishing boats in the 10-to-15 horsepower range. Homeowners and [part-time] residents are saying they should be exempted. They each can argue that one motor operating in the lake is insignificant.”

The lobbying even extended to meetings of a technical advisory committee that the TRPA is forming to evaluate the scientific issues involving the use of marine engines on Lake Tahoe. Participants will include representative of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection and the Tahoe Research Group.

But also sitting in on the first two meetings were two advocates on opposite sides of the fence, attorneys representing the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

“The first topic of discussion was whether we should participate, advise or even be in the room,” said Jeff Cutler, assistant director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. “We wouldn’t have gone if [the industry] weren’t going to be there. If they were willing to bow out, we’d be more willing to do the same.”

In the end, the technical committee agreed the partisan observers could stay, but would not be key players in directing the scope of the research.

Torn between competing interests, the TRPA board is unlikely to please either side and could end up in court no matter what decision it makes. The industry and local rental companies have already hired attorneys, and an environmental group, the Earth Island Institute, is also prepared to challenge any ordinance it views as too weak.

“The big question is how many exemptions the TRPA will allow,” said Russell Long, the group’s executive director. “If the TRPA weakens the proposed ordinance, we are not adverse to litigation.”

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