Overnight camping now legal in Emerald Bay | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Overnight camping now legal in Emerald Bay

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / California State Parks Sierra District Superintendent Hayden Sohm reviews a map showing the new boundaries of the restricted anchoring area in Emerald Bay.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation announced Tuesday that overnight mooring is now legal in specific parts of Emerald Bay.

The move comes after a turbulent summer of 2005, where boaters found out through a flier that State Parks would start enforcing a ban on overnight mooring because of damage to underwater artifacts.

Sunken boats, canoes and kayaks from several decades past lie at the bottom of the bay, which the department manages as an underwater park.

Mooring will be allowed on the west end of the bay in a 500-meter area north and south of the Vikingsholm pier, according to an order signed by Sierra District parks Superintendent Hayden Sohm on Tuesday.

Anchoring overnight has long been illegal by California code in all state waters except in designated areas, but the rule was never enforced in Emerald Bay.

The new designation will take effect by Memorial Day.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Henning Mehrens, a semi-retired doctor and recreational boater who was present at several public hearings last summer. “We praise Hayden for what he’s done. Parks and rec does have recreation in mind for the people of Tahoe.”

Sohm said there are people who have expressed dissatisfaction with any restriction on anchoring in the bay, but he believes the move is necessary to protect the historical resources of the park.

“We all have some responsibility to this land,” he said. “Hopefully people can understand why we are doing this.”

Sohm said they will take a soft approach to enforcement, and make every effort to first educate boaters not anchored in the designated area. However, a log will be kept on repeat offenders who anchor outside the area.

The decision comes after feedback from three public meetings Sohm held throughout Lake Tahoe last summer. An underwater survey was conducted which identified locations of sunken historical artifacts and possible locations for safe anchoring.

The designated area is the most popular anchoring area anyway, Sohm said, and proved to have few artifacts below. The most artifacts are within the boundary of the busy boat camp on the north end of the bay, where boats do not use anchors because buoys are available.

Adding more buoys to the bay is not an option at this point because of restrictions from other regulatory agencies, Sohm said.

There was some confusion last summer that the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency did not allow overnight camping anywhere on the lake. California lawmakers became involved, and asked the agency to review its code and point out where it prohibits mooring overnight. After a review, the agency said it did not have such a regulation.

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