Vote on speed limit expected in July
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors will likely vote on an ordinance lowering the speed limit in Emerald Bay to 5 mph at one of its two July meetings, according to Judi Harkins, assistant to Supervisor Norma Santiago.
If the ordinance passes, it will take effect 30 days later.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation asked to lower the speed limit after public feedback last summer on overnight mooring issues in the bay.
The parks department also suggested the speed limit as an alternative to a limited boating ban in the bay floated by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency last summer.
The county has met with the parks department, TRPA, a representative from the Lake Tahoe Yacht Association, and operators of the commercial cruise ships Tahoe Queen and M.S. Dixie II, which make several trips to the bay each day.
“Any amendment to a county code is a public process,” Harkins said. To comment, call the office at (530) 573-3411 or e-mail Santiago at email@example.com.
The cruise and rental boat industry will likely feel the most impact from the new speed limit.
The move would add at least 18 minutes to cruise times, according to Carol Chaplin, marketing director for Aramark Lake Tahoe, which operates the cruise boats.
The Dixie now takes two hours for an Emerald Bay tour, and the Queen takes two hours and 15 minutes.
Aramark is not prepared to comment on how a 5-mph hour speed limit would affect its bottom line, Chaplin said. But it would be difficult to change this season because their publications and schedules are already out, she said.
They were pleased to be included in the conversation between TRPA, State Parks and the county, she said.
“That’s hopefully the way we will continue to look at these issues,” Chaplin said. “This is a healthy conversation that’s taken place, and that’s always good news when it comes to this community.”
Chaplin said the cruises are a mitigation for Emerald Bay traffic by giving people an alternative to taking a private boat or driving a car.
Emerald Bay is about a half-hour boat ride from South Shore marinas, making it an attractive trip for a one-hour rental. The new speed limit would affect the time it takes for rental boats to tour the bay.
Some have suggested the new speed limit would keep many rental boats out of the bay.
“One way or the other, they are limiting the boats,” said Tahoe Keys Marina owner Ray Carreau, who is not in favor of lowering the speed limit. “By going at 5 mph, a lot of the public may not go.”
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