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Phaseout exemptions delayed

Patrick McCartney

With a lawsuit hanging over the agency’s head, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board decided Wednesday that it is too soon to exempt small motors from its phaseout of carbureted, two-stroke engines.

Instead, the agency’s board agreed to research how any changes would affect its chances in the lawsuit filed by marine engine manufacturers and Lake Tahoe boaters and boat rental and sales firms.

And the agency will also oversee research next summer that could answer questions about the relative contribution of smaller engines on the amount of gasoline pollution caused by two-stroke engines at the lake.

Board member Jim Galloway, a Washoe County commissioner, proposed giving the owners of boats with engines smaller than 10 horse power three more years to convert to cleaner engines. He also suggested studying the possible exemption of engines smaller than 25 horse power at Echo Lake.

Galloway referred to information the agency compiled in June, when the board voted to ban the current generation of two-stroke engines on the lake by 1999.

“I supported the ban, but as the environmental assessment indicated, there is evidence for two possible exceptions to the ban,” Galloway said. “The reason I’m focusing on gasoline is that the experts say the problem is with the trapping efficiency of two-stroke engines – a certain proportion of gas going through the carburetors is simply not burned.”

Research conducted in 1988 suggested that just 6 percent of the engines in use on the lake were smaller engines used by anglers and sailboats, Galloway said. And the smaller engines use – and discharge – a proportionately smaller amount of gasoline than the larger outboard engines and two-stroke engines used in personal watercraft, he said.

El Dorado County Supervisor Ray Nutting, sitting in as an alternate board member for John Upton, said the county has received numerous complaints about the phaseout from Echo Lake residents who rely on boats to access their cabins.

“We have a lot of people up there who are genuinely concerned,” Nutting said. “If we have to wait until the fall of 1998 to take action, those people will be left dangling.”

Yet, several board members expressed reservations about taking action now, before more research is completed on the mix of engine types on the lake, and on the legal repercussions of any amendments.

“We need to know up front if any action by this board would prejudice the lawsuit,” said Larry Sevison, who represents Placer County.

In the end, the board referred Galloway’s proposal to its legal committee, and requested the committee report to the full board by April.


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