State Parks superintendent: Add buoys in Emerald Bay |

State Parks superintendent: Add buoys in Emerald Bay

Amanda Fehd

A group of about 20 boaters on Thursday offered themselves up to be deputized to enforce existing rules on Emerald Bay to make the scenic destination a safer and better experience for all recreationists.

The boaters were attending an open meeting with State Parks representatives to go over options for protecting the bay and its underwater park. They said they are longtime responsible overnighters, and were being punished for the irresponsible actions of day-trippers, actions which often offend them as well as other visitors to the bay.

State Parks announced in June it wanted to enforce a California code against overnight boat camping in the bay. After protest from the public, it announced a series of meetings, the last of which was Thursday night, to hear public comments and discuss options.

State Parks Superintendent Hayden Sohm appeared to make a good impression on the crowd Thursday night with his willingness to listen, explain and work through pros and cons of different alternatives.

“I’m extremely encouraged by the tone of this discussion so far tonight,” said Jeff Jallo, who works with Vessel Assist. His words were echoed by several others throughout the two-hour meeting.

Sohm laid out a two-phase plan for Emerald Bay, which included a survey of the lake bottom to determine where the best place to add more buoys might be. Then he’d seek permission from State Lands Commission and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. If Alternative 6 of the shorezone passes as is, he said, he could do none of this, as Emerald Bay would become a resource protection zone.

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Sohm gave a slide show of various sunken boats on the lake bottom from the turn of the century, displaying one of a metal kayak allegedly ripped in half by an anchor. Other boats showed alleged damage by anchors.

The audience suggested opening the entire bay to anchoring, except in off-limit areas where such underwater artifacts exist. Other suggestions involved an annual Emerald Bay anchoring fee, like a snowpark fee, that would be good for the whole season.

But many wondered why there was decreasing enforcement of existing rules.

Bemoaning “knuckleheads” who boat too fast, throw trash and endanger swimmers and kayakers, the audience gave a resounding “yes” when Sohm asked if they were in favor of lowering the speed limit or having a no-wake zone in the bay.

“We run a biodiesel sailboat, it’s pretty low impact,” said Steve Lehren. “When you see the people go in there and they are speeding and throwing trash, (and State Parks targets overnight boaters) the irony of it was not lost on us.”

Sohm encourage boaters for the rest of the season to stay on the sandy areas in order to protect underwater artifacts.