Small engines may be grandfathered |

Small engines may be grandfathered

Patrick McCartney

The 1999 phaseout of carbureted two-cycle engines from Lake Tahoe was aimed at reducing the amount of gasoline pollution at the lake.

But the regulation passed by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency applies equally to small engines, such as sailboat auxiliary engines, and larger engines that may emit as much raw gasoline in one hour as a smaller engine might use in a month.

On Wednesday, a TRPA board member will propose that the owners of boats with smaller engines be given three more years to acquire cleaner, and expensive, replacements.

Jim Galloway, a Washoe County commissioner who represents the county on the TRPA board, said the TRPA should not wait until 1999 before considering the exemptions.

“The question is, when are we going to get to it?” Galloway said. “I don’t want to wait until one month before the ban, and people have already purchased another engine.”

In a letter to the rest of the TRPA board, Galloway suggested the board give the owners of two-cycle engines with fewer than 10 horse power another three years to replace the engines with direct-injection two-cycle engines or with four-cycle engines.

He also suggested that residents of Echo Lake be given the same grace period, since many of those residents rely on boats powered by outboard motors for access to their properties. He suggested that the deadline might be relaxed for Echo Lake engines smaller than 25 horse power.

Galloway said his proposal is contingent on his belief that the smaller two-cycle engines contribute a small part of the pollution at Lake Tahoe caused by all two-cycle engines.

“If, as I suspect, they amount to only a fraction of the problem, an exemption of small engines could help a lot of people and avoid a lot of administrative headaches,” Galloway said. “We never tried for perfection. We’ve never done anything with diesel engines, for instance.”

Galloway said the difference between auxiliary and trolling engines, compared to larger two-cycle engines, is that the larger engines, when installed in personal watercraft, are usually operated at full throttle.

Vic Beelik, commodore of the Windjammer Yacht Club, said the extension would save his club’s sailboat owners the immediate expense of $3,000 to $5,000 to buy new engines.

“It’s a big investment, a big hit,” Beelik said. “For the amount of pollution they’re causing, it’s not worth the investment.”

Beelik said a survey of the club’s members suggested that the typical sailboat owner uses just three to 10 gallons of gasoline over the six-month season.

The TRPA voted to phase out carbureted two-stroke engines from Lake Tahoe because of evidence the engines discharge a fourth of their fuel and lubrication unburned into the water.

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