TRPA wins watercraft lawsuit | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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TRPA wins watercraft lawsuit

Andy Bourelle

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency wins.

The motorized watercraft lawsuit has been dismissed.

“We just got in a decision concerning the watercraft, two-cycle, Jet Ski litigation dismissing the industry’s and locals’ complaint,” John Marshall, counsel for TRPA, said Friday. “It’s pretty much a near total victory for TRPA.”

TRPA passed an ordinance banning two-cycle engines used to power Jet Skis and other watercraft in June 1997. The lawsuit was filed October 1997, and TRPA announced in July of this year that its ban on two-stroke engines – effective June 1, 1999 – would be replaced in December with an ordinance following the California Air Resources Board’s new emission regulations.

The plaintiffs in the case included the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, the Lake Tahoe Watercraft Recreation Association and several other watercraft rental firms and residents.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, claimed TRPA’s phaseout of two-stroke engines by 1999 is unfounded and unfairly singles out engines.

TRPA and the League to Save Lake Tahoe filed a motion to dismiss in July, and Friday U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. dismissed all 18 claims of the suit.

“About 14 of those arguments, which essentially challenged TRPA’s legal authority to do what we do, the judge said are completely wrong, ,” Marshall said. “For the other four, the judge said, they can file again with a little different tact. Those arguments they can file again challenge the underlying rationale behind the decision, but those are the hardest for the industry to fight because science is so good on our side.”

The ordinance TRPA staff intends to propose to the board of governors in December will focus on emission standards rather than specific engine types. Officials have said a regulation on emissions will be easier to support scientifically as well as easier to enforce.

“There are still some options for the other side to consider, but we’re extremely pleased,” said Jim Baetge, executive director of TRPA. “It shows us we’re on the right track and gives us a lot of confidence to not allow that type of watercraft in the Tahoe Basin.”

Marshall said this decision shows that TRPA regulations are treated like federal law.

“This decision was a very strong affirmation of TRPA’s ability to regulate sources of pollution that contaminate Lake Tahoe and degrade the water quality in the basin,” Marshall said.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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