Tahoe regional planners consider crackdown on speedboat noise
RENO – Some of the noisiest speedboats screaming across Lake Tahoe may be the next target of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s regulators.
Nearly 1-1/2 years after TRPA started cracking down on polluting marine engines used by older personal watercraft and many outboard motorboats, agency officials are looking at trying to limit the noise created by racing-type speedboats.
If TRPA proceeds along those lines, it’s likely to wind up at the forefront of a controversy every bit as heated as the two-year-long debate over personal watercraft rules.
”It’s going to be another tough one,” Juan Palma, TRPA’s new executive director, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. ”I’m sure it’s going to create many concerns.”
George Prchal, president of Tahoe Vista Sports at North Tahoe Marina, agreed.
”It would kill this lake,” Prchal said.
In June 1999, TRPA banned carbureted two-stroke engines used by most personal watercraft and many outboards. The engines were targeted because they discharge 25 percent or more of their fuel unburned into Tahoe’s air and water.
Studies indicate the crackdown produced its desired effect, dramatically reducing many types of gasoline contaminants found in the lake. After a discussion Wednesday on the two-stroke watercraft regulations, governing board chairman Larry Sevison said he had received a petition signed by about 65 north Tahoe residents asking that the agency adopt stringent powerboat noise standards and a plan to enforce them.
Palma and other TRPA officials later said they already were discussing possible ways to address noise from powerboats, including whether existing agency noise standards are sufficient. Palma said discussions are very preliminary.
The biggest offenders are probably the large, high-performance speedboats such as Fountain or Cigarette boats often used for offshore racing, TRPA enforcement chief Steve Chilton said. Many such boats often exceed existing agency noise standards but enforcing those rules could prove particularly challenging.
”It’s difficult. You can’t chase them. They’re going 50 miles an hour,” Chilton said.
Prchal of Tahoe Vista Sports said it would be difficult for rules to differentiate between high performance racing boats and the many other types of speedboats on the lake with open exhaust. Smaller boats can be as loud as larger racing models, he said.
”You’d end up restricting all power boats on this lake and then you’d have a real problem,” Prchal said. ”It would be very, very negative. We’d be out of business very soon.”
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