TRPA gets strong support against Jet Skis |

TRPA gets strong support against Jet Skis


SACRAMENTO (AP) – On his first full day in office Tuesday, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer asked a federal court for permission to help defend Lake Tahoe officials in their bitter fight with the makers of Jet Skis and other personal watercraft.

Lockyer, seeking to intervene in a major water-quality dispute, submitted the request to U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. in Sacramento, Lockyer’s office said. A hearing date has not yet been set.

The case is being watched closely by the makers of the popular watercraft and the people who use them at Lake Tahoe and other areas in California and Nevada.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the powerful two-state office that enforces growth and environmental rules at the mile-high Sierra Nevada lake, banned the discharge of unburned fuel and oil from two-stroke carbureted engines beginning June 1.

California’s direct intervention means, among other things, that the state’s legal expertise will be made available to TRPA.

”The agency welcomes the state of California’s participation. It is a further showing that TRPA is on the right track in our public policy and our legal ability to regulate Jet Skis and other two-cycle watercraft,” said TRPA attorney John Marshall.

TRPA officials say the unburned fuel contains an array of toxic pollutants – including benzene and the gasoline additive MTBE – that mar water quality at the azure lake. By some estimates, up to one-third of the fuel used by the two-stroke watercraft is not burned and is spewed raw into the lake. The ordinance banning them was approved in mid-1997 to take effect on June 1, 1999.

Lockyer’s office said the state asked that ”the court allow us to intervene and thereby permit us to better defend TRPA in the lawsuit.”

The watercraft manufacturers oppose the ordinance, saying it would cripple their business. They contend federal law bars TRPA from enacting such a law, and that even if it had the authority, there is no factual basis to target the two-stroke engines.

Damrell in October issued a preliminary ruling in favor of TRPA and Lake Tahoe environmentalists by upholding the ordinance. He dismissed most of the allegations of the watercraft enthusiasts and engine manufacturers, who said the ordinance was flawed and violated their right to do business.

The manufacturers, however, downplayed the significance of Damrell’s ruling and said the core issues of their legal challenge had yet to be decided.

Damrell left open the possibility that the manufacturers could amend their lawsuit on the grounds that watercraft owners have a legal right to use their craft because the agency approved permits for marinas and boat launches. They also may file a separate claim alleging the ordinance violates the Clean Water Act, attorney John Fagan said earlier.

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