State two-stroke ban passes test | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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State two-stroke ban passes test

Patrick McCartney

A California lawmaker has delayed a proposed ban on large two-stroke engines on California reservoirs from next year to 2004, but has also proposed barring the sale of the engines next year.

The bill by Assemblywoman Debra Bowen, D-Torrance, passed its first test Tuesday, when the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee approved it on a straight partisan, 5-3 vote.

Bowen said two-stroke marine engines are the largest source of water pollution in the state. Because of their design, the lightweight, but powerful engines discharge as much as a fourth of their fuel unburned into the water.

“We wouldn’t allow a person to paddle a canoe out of the middle of Lake Tahoe and pour four gallons of gas into the water,” Bowen said. “So why should a two-stroke powered jet ski or two-stroke outboard motor capable of dumping four gallons of unburned gas and oil from every tank into the water be allowed to pollute our lakes and reservoirs?”

After consulting with recreational boaters, Bowen amended the bill to delay the ban of two-stroke engines larger than 10 horsepower from 1999 to 2004. An aide to the assemblywoman said the extra time would reduce the economic loss of the phaseout to current owners of two-stroke engines, giving them more time to buy cleaner fuel-injected two-stroke or four-stroke power plants.

A spokesman for personal watercraft said after Tuesday’s committee hearing, the bill would severely damage the state’s recreational boating industry.

The list of lakes where two-stroke engines would be banned includes Tahoe, Havasu, Castaic and Perris, said Mark Denny, government affairs representative of the International Jet Sports Boating Association.

“This bill would have tremendous impact,” Denny said. “I think it’s a bad bill.”

Yet, Bowen said research conducted at Tahoe and other lakes in California have shown an alarming amount of gasoline contamination. And two-stroke engines are the main culprit, emitting up to 40 times more hydrocarbon pollution than the comparably sized four-stroke engines found in most automobiles.

The proposed statewide regulation follows the precedent-setting ban on carbureted two-stroke engines at Lake Tahoe, approved last year by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The ban is scheduled to go into effect in June, 1999.

Two California water suppliers – the East Bay Municipal Utility District and the Santa Clara Valley Water District – have since passed their own restrictions on two-stroke engines in drinking water reservoirs.

Proposals to restrict two-stroke engines have proliferated, despite pending regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which require marine engine manufacturers to reduce emissions from two-stroke engines by three-fourths during the next eight years.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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