TRPA to await research results before considering two-stroke issue
The Tahoe planning agency will conduct several research projects this summer before deciding what manner of emission or discharge regulations will be enforced next June on gasoline engines.
While officials with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency decided to replace the ban on all two-stroke outboard and personal watercraft engines with an ordinance that will resemble emission regulations set by the California Air Resources Board, the bistate agency still plans to stick to its June 1, 1999 date.
“I don’t want people to be misled, the June 1 date still applies,” said Jim Baetge, the executive director of TRPA. “The restriction is the same, it is simply going to be on the basis of discharge and not the two-stroke engine itself.”
Baetge said the shift to the emissions and discharge standards will be easier to enforce than simply banning a specific engine type.
What ordinance or ordinances will ultimately replace the engine ban will not be decided on until at least November. Baetge said the staff will analyze data from a variety of summer and fall studies being conducted on and below the waters of Lake Tahoe before making a decision.
It will also wait to see what regulations CARB approves at its December board meeting. The current CARB proposal calls for more efficient, cleaner burning engines that by the year 2010 will reduce hydrocarbon emissions by 50 percent more than the federal regulations (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hopes to reduce marine hydrocarbon emissions by 75 percent by the year 2025). In all, emissions should be reduced by approximately 160 tons per day in 12 years.
Under the CARB proposal, the regulations will begin in the year 2001, which allows engine manufactures a few years to catchup and install the new technology. This buffer period will not be allowed by the TRPA, according to Baetge.
“There is no change in the date, there will be no grandfathering of old crafts, and basically (what the new regulation will state is) here’s the amount of discharge allowed,” Baetge said. “We have no intention of using the 2001 date. It will be this June.”
Grandfathering, which would allow the use of two-stroke engines that were manufactured before any future regulations take effect, is one of the big issues involved in a lawsuit against the TRPA. The lawsuit is expected to go to trial in May, but could be affected by the latest TRPA move to switch to emission standards.
Research projects to study motorized watercraft on Lake Tahoe are divided into three time phases. The agencies include the United States Geological Survey, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, the U.C. Davis-affiliated Tahoe Research Group, the University of Nevada-Reno, the California Air Resources Board, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Nevada Division of Wildlife, California Department of Boating and Waterways.
Phase one is from the spring of 1997 to the winter of 1997 (completed), phase II is from the spring of 1998 to the fall of 1999, and the last “follow up monitoring” phase is ongoing. A final report is due in the summer of 1999.
The purpose of the study is to: identify impacts of various classes of motorized watercraft on water quality; evaluate the fate and transport of unburned fuels and products of incomplete combustion; quantify the magnitude of unburned fuels by type of watercraft; provide information to the public through a coordinated research effort; identify short- and long-term monitoring needs and potential funding sources; and access hazards and risks to human health and aquatic life.
Current studies, which are part of phase II are:
— A Complete Recreation/Boating Use Survey on Tahoe Lakes (Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf, and Echo) – The primary purpose is to determine recreational use characteristics, but some information will be used for impact assessment. Nevada Division of Wildlife will lead the study, with the support of California Department of Boating and Waterways.
— Monitoring/Identification of Sources of Pollutants (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether, Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl Benzene, Xylenes, PAH, VOC, Nitrogen Oxides) – Sources of pollutants will be identified on the Tahoe lakes. The United States Geological Survey will conduct the tests at a variety of locations on Lake Tahoe and Angora, with the help of the TRPA, NDEP, LRWCQB, federal EPA, and marinas. Monitoring for spillage from refueling, parked watercraft, and after the watercraft has passed will take place. Officials will also monitor runoff from surface and groundwater and the atmosphere.
— Watercraft Emission and Discharge Testing – Water emission testing for gasoline by-products resulting from the operation of marine engines and watercraft emission testing of the air and tanks. The tests will be conducted by Lahontan and CARB.
— MTBE Study – Lead by the Tahoe Research Group, with aid from the TRPA and the USGS, sites will continue to be tested for the presence of MTBE, a gasoline additive used to help fuel burn more efficiently.
— Analysis of Fate, Transport, Rise Assessment, and Impacts of Emissions – Volatilization rates will be analyzed as a function of depth and the magnitude of unburned emissions will be quantified. Lahontan quality board will lead the study, with help from the University of Nevada-Reno, the Tahoe Research Group, and the USGS. Analysis of the impacts of nutrient loading of nitrogen oxides will also occur.
— Prepare and Submit the Study Report – The Tahoe Research Group will lead the coordination of the studies and prepare the draft report (due Jan. 31, 1999), with UNR, USGS, and the TRPA.
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