Nevada will support TRPA in watercraft case |

Nevada will support TRPA in watercraft case

It looks like Nevada is going to help out, too.

One day after California Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed papers in federal court to help defend Lake Tahoe regulators in their fight against polluting personal watercraft, his Nevada counterpart had virtually identical news.

Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa announced Wednesday that Nevada will file a motion in federal court in Sacramento in an attempt to intervene in the lawsuit against the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency concerning the ban of certain types of motorized watercraft.

“Collectively, these watercraft pour thousands of gallons of MTBE and other pollutants into Lake Tahoe every year,” Del Papa said. “Lake Tahoe is a national treasure and must be protected from this pollution. Nevada’s continued and substantial involvement in the lawsuit is needed given the threat posed to the lake.”

To TRPA, the involvement of the two states is reassuring.

“We had a strong case before, and it’s even stronger now,” said Pam Drum, TRPA public affairs coordinator.

TRPA’s governing board in 1997 adopted an ordinance banning two-stroke carbureted engines from use on Lake Tahoe, effective this June. TRPA officials say the unburned fuel contains an array of toxic pollutants – including benzene and the gasoline additive MTBE – that hurt water quality in the azure lake.

The board likely will amend the ordinance at its meeting this month. However, the changes do little more than take care of a “loophole” in the ordinance.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Lake Tahoe Watercraft Recreation Association and several watercraft rental firms and residents in October 1997 filed a lawsuit against TRPA for the ban. U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. out of Sacramento dismissed most of the complaints in October 1998, and TRPA claimed “near total victory.”

However, the plaintiffs filed an amendment in December, and the suit now challenges TRPA’s authority to ban the watercraft under the Federal Clean Air Act, other federal laws and the agency’s own laws.

A trial is scheduled in May.

This is not the first time the Nevada and California attorneys general have helped TRPA in litigation. The case of the Tahoe Sierra Preservation Council vs. TRPA – a 14-year-old lawsuit dealing with land-use issues – went to trial in Reno last month, and representatives of both offices helped in TRPA’s defense.

Drum said the actions show California’s and Nevada’s support of the regulator agency in preserving Lake Tahoe.

“Lake Tahoe is a special place,” she said. “It’s in the states’ best interest to help preserve it.”

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