TRPA will not recommend ban on seaplanes on Lake Tahoe
LAKE TAHOE – Responding to concerns from pilots who prefer to use Lake Tahoe as their landing strip, the regional environmental policy agency will not recommend measures that would have severely restricted the ability of seaplanes to land on the lake.
Representatives from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency met with seaplane advocates a week ago to discuss staff recommendations relating to the Regional Plan Update, which stated “seaplanes shall be prohibited within one mile of the shoreline of Lake Tahoe.”
“As a result of a meeting with some of those concerned, the decision has been reached to completely remove the implementation measure that would have affected seaplanes,” said TRPA Dennis Oliver.
TRPA was considering the ban as part of a measure to reduce engine noise near the shores of the lake.
Seaplane pilot Chuck Kimes, spokesman for the recently formed group Lake Tahoe Seaplane Pilots, said in a written statement that due to the increasing rarity of seaplanes landing on Lake Tahoe, the aircraft carry minimal impact to the environment.
“Given that seaplane operations are already quite rare on Lake Tahoe, the seaplanes’ overall impact upon the serenity of the Lake Tahoe experience is far less than that of any other motorized recreational user,” he said in a press release dated June 2, two days before the meeting with TRPA.
During a Thursday, June 10, phone interview, Kimes said he is cautiously optimistic TRPA will not implement bans on seaplanes, but said the final decision will rest with the TRPA governing board, which meets Monday, June 23, to discuss noise ordinances in relation to the TRPA.
Oliver said a ban is unlikely, given the agency’s limited ability to regulate aircraft and lack of resources to enforce new standards.
“The governing board has the ultimate say regarding the direction of the Regional Plan, and it is within the realm of possibility that the board could give direction to implement some sort of seaplane ban, but we don’t have the legal authority to ban seaplanes, nor is it logistically possible to enforce the ban, so the agency should move on to something else,” he said.
Kimes said seaplanes are historically significant to the area, as the now defunct Lake Tahoe Airways used Sikorsky S-38 Amphibian seaplanes to fly tourists up to the “Jewel of the Sierra” beginning in 1934.
West Shore residents celebrate the legacy of Lake Tahoe aviation – seaplanes in particular – with the annual Mike Brown Memorial Splash-In.
Brown, a life-long Tahoe area resident and graduate of Truckee High School, ran a seaplane-chartering business from the shores of Lake Tahoe for more than 30 years. Brown’s business provided charter services, scenic tours and seaplane training.
Kimes said seaplanes are sometimes used to aid the U.S. Coast Guard in Lake Tahoe missions to locate missing boaters or swimmers in danger of drowning.
“There are certain missions that only a seaplane can respond to,” he said.