TRPA, marine industry seek a settlement |

TRPA, marine industry seek a settlement

Settlement hopes are still alive between the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the plaintiffs suing the regulatory body for banning certain motorized watercraft from Lake Tahoe.

Negotiations have been ongoing for months between attorneys for the plaintiffs and TRPA’s legal counsel. The plaintiffs had asked for extensions for some specific types of craft, and TRPA had indicated that it may agree to the exemptions if suitable mitigation plans were worked out. That means if the plaintiffs agreed to help TRPA in enforcement and education for the ban, TRPA would allow the extensions. The mitigation measures would essentially have to offset the damage TRPA believes the extensions would cause.

However, negotiations seemed to grind to a halt last month when no agreement could be reached. At its February meeting, TRPA’s governing board agreed to a three-year extension on the use of two-stroke engines used as auxiliary power for sailboats. Because the mitigation package before them was unacceptable, however, the board members would not grant any other extensions. The board also said it would not look at the issue again unless TRPA counsel and the plaintiff’s attorneys agreed on a mitigation package.

It looks like that has happened.

“The motorized watercraft discussion is on for the March 24 agenda, “said Pam Drum, TRPA public affairs coordinator.

The governing board originally adopted the ban in 1997, calling for the prohibition of carbureted two-stroke engines from Lake Tahoe. The ordinance, however, left room for changes. Slight amendments – cleaning up the language of the ordinance – were made in January.

The plaintiffs – which include the National Marine Manufacturers Association and several watercraft rental firms and residents – in October 1997 filed a lawsuit against TRPA. The League to Save Lake Tahoe and the attorneys general from California and Nevada have intervened in the suit on the side of TRPA. A trial is scheduled for May.

What is happening this summer is a prohibition of all watercraft powered by two-stroke engines, with a few exceptions. The ban essentially eliminates carbureted two-stroke engines, which power most Jet Skis and personal watercraft and are considered to cause significantly more pollution to the lake than other engine types.

Only a couple models of personal watercraft – Polaris Genesis and Arctic Cat Tigershark – will be available this summer for use on Lake Tahoe.

Another type of craft, a Bombardier Sea-Doo, has been exempted for three years. TRPA considered it a loophole in the original ordinance; while cleaner than carbureted two-stroke motors, it is still not clean enough, according to TRPA.

The suit’s plaintiffs want two more extensions. One would exempt any watercraft powered by a two-stroke engine of 10 horsepower or less until October 2001.

The other would allow one type of craft – a Yamaha using a catalytic converter to make it cleaner-burning than other carbureted two-stroke engines – to be used for three more years.

The ban goes into effect June 1. Despite the approaching deadline, Drum said TRPA will do everything in its power to make sure the public understands the ordinance by summer.

“We’ll do everything we can to get the word out to the region,” she said. “We’ll also do everything we can to get the word out to people outside the region. Before people drive their boats up here, we want them to know whether (their boats are) legal or not.”

What: Meeting of the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

When: March 24, 9:30 a.m.

Where: North Tahoe Conference Center, 8318 North Lake Tahoe Blvd., Kings Beach

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