Unresolved boating issues subject of meeting | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Unresolved boating issues subject of meeting

Patrick McCartney

Two weeks ago, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board set in motion a proposal to phase out old two-cycle engines from Lake Tahoe within two years.

This Friday, an eclectic committee representing public and private interests will wrestle over a number of other proposals that, together, would seek to minimize the noise and other impacts from boating on Lake Tahoe.

Among the proposed rules:

— A cap on the number of personal watercraft on the lake,

— Larger no-wake zones to reduce noise and protect sensitive areas,

— A certification program to ensure that engines are tuned for Lake Tahoe’s altitude,

— A boating fee to mitigate nitrogen-oxide emissions,

— Required use of bilge sponges,

— Possible reductions in hours for watercraft rental companies, and

— A freeze on the number of rental permits.

The package of proposed regulations, some which already surfaced during the partnership process, are aimed at addressing the impacts from boating in the two years before older models of two-cycle engines are banned from the lake, said Jerry Wells, the TRPA’s deputy director.

“The combined effect would be an incremental change, so that we’re not doing nothing for the two years,” Wells said.

The proposed regulations will be met by varying degrees of resistance by different members of the Lake Tahoe boating community. Besides the phase-out of carburated two-cycle engines, the restrictions on rental hours and possible new fees may be the most objectionable to various boating interests.

Gregg Lien, a Tahoe City attorney who represents the lake’s watercraft concessionaires, called the possible reduction in hours of rental operations a major stumbling block.

“That’s a tough one for us. It would directly translate to a loss of business,” Lien said. “The concessionaires are very willing to deal on all the other issues.”

But Lien added that the most important question to the rental operators is whether or not the marine manufacturers can produce a direct-injection personal watercraft by June, 1999 that would allow the concessionaires to switch to the cleaner engines.

“If that is not resolvable, then the concessionaires are in very dire straits,” Lien said.

Representatives of two of the lake’s yacht clubs said their members remain adamantly opposed to the proposed phase-out of most existing two-cycle engines, even when they are not personally affected.

“The club’s members are furious,” said Marvin Goshorn, the commodore of the South Lake Tahoe Yacht Club. “They feel that the TRPA is following one man’s – Steve Wynn’s – feeling about the subject. Even a phase-out didn’t appeal to too many people.”

Goshorn added that his members challenge the TRPA’s authority to implement restrictions on boating at Lake Tahoe, and that many fear a ban on older two-cycle engines could be a prelude to more widespread restrictions on boating.

Craig Miller, the rear commodore of the 600-member Tahoe Yacht Club, said his members oppose the two-cycle ban.

“We are not aware of any scientific studies that show an impact on water quality by recreational boating,” said Miller, who represents the boating public’s point of view on the partnership committee.

Miller said some of the proposals, such as requiring boat engines be tuned for Tahoe, are good ideas, but will not be easy to implement or enforce.

Yet, his club supports some of the proposals, including the use of bilge sponges and increasing the age requirement to operate a personal watercraft. In California, people as young as 12 can operate the powerful watercraft.

But, his club shares the South Lake Tahoe Yacht Club’s wariness over the proposed restrictions, Miller added.

“Frankly, we see this as a tip of the iceberg,” Miller said. “They start with personal watercraft, then get outboards off the lake and then look at all boating activity on the lake. Maybe we’ll all be in canoes sooner or later.”

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