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Proposed Queen relocation to face scrutiny today

Rob Bhatt

A messy breakup with its former landlords has not changed Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s staff opinion on the Tahoe Queen’s proposed temporary relocation to Timber Cove Marina.

Whether agency policymakers feel the same way remains to be seen.

TRPA planners today will recommend that the agency’s governing board approve the move through April 30.

The roughly 120-foot Tahoe Queen has been moored at Timber Cove Pier since last week, when Lake Tahoe Cruises, the tour boat operator, was evicted from leased office and dock space at Ski Run Marina in South Lake Tahoe.

Following the company’s departure Wednesday, Ski Run Marina owners discovered numerous barrels of engine fluids left at the scene.

At the time, Joe Thiemann, president of Lake Tahoe Cruises, said his crews intended to remove the items a day after the eviction but were locked out by the marina owners.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board last Thursday inspected the site. On Monday, it issued a cleanup and abatement order that requires Lake Tahoe Cruises to remove hazardous materials and test the soil for contamination.

Thiemann could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

However, John Short, Lahontan’s senior water resource control engineer, said Lake Tahoe Cruises officials are cooperating.

“With things of this nature, Lahontan takes the lead in investigating and taking action,” said Jim Lawrence, the TRPA planner heading his agency’s review of the Tahoe Queen’s relocation proposal. “(The waste left at the site) has not changed our staff recommendation.”

As proposed, the TRPA permit would enable Lake Tahoe Cruises to run tours at Timber Cove Marina through the end of April. TRPA staff is recommending approval based on numerous conditions including one prohibiting the storage of used engine oils and antifreeze at Timber Cove Marina.

The tour boat operator proposes splitting berthing operations at Timber Cove and Lakeside Marina, both in South Lake Tahoe, in its long-term relocation plan. Applications for this proposal are still being processed by regulators.

Lake Tahoe Cruises’ application for a temporary relocation to Timber Cove Marina fell one vote shy of approval in December by the TRPA board.

Since then, the company has taken steps to make the proposal more appealing to regulators.

The South Tahoe Public Utility District, for instance, approved designs on upgrading the sewer facilities at Timber Cove needed to discharge waste from the tour boat. Final approval from STPUD to use the sewer line awaits field tests on the upgrades, said Julie Regan, spokeswoman for the utility district.

The California State Lands Commission, meanwhile, is still reviewing an application by Timber Cove Marina’s owners to allow the tour boat to operate at the site. State Lands officials have asked Lake Tahoe Cruises to complete initial structural analyses on the pier.

Today’s TRPA hearing is expected to include a challenge to the proposed move by Bal Bijou-area homeowners. The group consists of representatives from about eight homes adjacent to Timber Cove Marina. The group, represented by Reno-based attorney Treva Hearne, contends environmental documentation on the proposal is still inadequate.

Last week, Hearne’s clients filed a lawsuit challenging the city of South Lake Tahoe’s approval in January of the temporary relocation. The city permits are contingent upon approval by other regulators, including the TRPA board.

Some of the issues that Hearne intends to raise to the TRPA board today include potential for sewage spills and litter at Timber Cove Marina and the adjacent lakefront.

“All of these issues are important to my clients, because they live there,” Hearne said on Tuesday.

She also intends to point out the possible contamination at Ski Run Marina when Lake Tahoe Cruises vacated its former site.

“I certainly think a person’s past environmental history has to be looked at,” Hearne added.

Short said stains in the sand at Ski Run Marina suggest possible contamination.

The abatement order requires Lake Tahoe Cruises to submit a work plan today to Lahontan officials on removing oil drums from the site with certified, hazardous waste disposal crews.

The order also requires the company to submit a work plan on testing the site for possible soil and groundwater contamination and to submit receipts verifying adequate waste disposal.


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