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Noise may face tighter restrictions

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune staff writer

An increase in noise complaints on Lake Tahoe this summer has the Nevada Division of Wildlife and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency contemplating stricter boat noise enforcement.

North Shore resident Jeff Rieger started a petition in September asking TRPA officials to enforce stricter decibel thresholds because of the off-shore racing boats, which he said have increased in number.

“(The boats) can actually make it so loud on my back porch that I can’t even hear the person I’m talking to,” Rieger said. “There are all these people with all this money and they buy these big boats. And it’s loud. It’s insanely loud.”



Fred Messmann, Nevada boating law administrator, drafted new regulations in July, which will be voted upon by the nine statewide Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners on Saturday in Henderson, Nev.

Messmann said he is collecting public comments in writing by 5 p.m. Thursday from people who cannot attend a public hearing on the noise issue to be held on Friday in Henderson.



The TRPA and the division of wildlife currently have noise ordinances, which Messmann said are hard to regulate because testing a vessel’s particular decibel level is difficult.

Current regulations stipulate testing at a certain distance from the shoreline and a certain distance away from the offending boat.

The new approach to regulating boat noise, which Nevada may pass, measures the noise received onshore from operation of any vessel.

The new tests would make measurements at the shoreline and compare them to the recommended noise limit of 75 decibels. If any boat is identified as exceeding that limit, it could be cited.

Messmann said the Nevada Division of Wildlife has a boat that patrols Lake Tahoe daily from spring until fall along with the Washoe and Douglas counties’ sheriff patrol boats.

Messmann said problem boats have modified exhaust systems or don’t have a muffling system at all, like the cigarette or offshore racing boats.

He said the new regulations Nevada is considering have worked in other states and could be enforced by any Nevada peace officer. However the TRPA could not enforce the changes.

“There’s not very many boats that violate the thresholds, but it only takes one,” Messmann said. “We don’t want to mess up boaters’ fun, but at the same time we don’t want shoreline people or fishermen not to be able to hear themselves think. I don’t anticipate its being a major enforcement problem for our agency.”

Pam Drum, TRPA’s public affairs coordinator, said the TRPA is aware of the problem, thanks to petitioners, and will study it more carefully during the next boating season. She said the agency does support any regulation changes Nevada or California make.

“We realize these larger boats do present a noise problem and it’s our responsibility to look into it,” Drum said. “We’re supporting the idea of what (the Nevada Division of Wildlife) is trying to do there. It will have more effective standards that will, to a large degree, take care of the Nevada side.”

David Johnson, public information officer of the California Department of Boating and Waterways, said his agency was unaware of boat noise problems on Lake Tahoe. However, if complaints arise, Johnson said the department will look into it.

Rieger said he hopes boat owners will take it upon themselves to muffle their boats next season now that residents have petitioned.

“We’re going to have to get along on all fronts,” Rieger said. “The noise issue is going to be the primary deterrent on my quality of life. I’m not entirely fond of power boats, but they have just as much of a right to be on the lake as everybody else.”

Bkout:

The Nevada Division of Wildlife is accepting public comments on boat noise on Lake Tahoe.

Comments must be faxed to Fred Messmann, Nevada boating law administrator, at (775) 688-1551.

Comments must be received by 5 p.m., Thursday.


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