Watercraft war mey be far from finished | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Watercraft war mey be far from finished

Andy Bourelle

Lake Tahoe residents fighting for Jet Skis in Lake Tahoe disagree that last week’s court action was a “near total victory” for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“It’s definitely disappointing, but it still leaves us room to move forward with the lawsuit,” said Larie Trippett, former owner of North Tahoe Motorsports in Incline Village.

Trippett is one person – along with the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, the Lake Tahoe Watercraft Recreation Association and other business and individuals – attempting to sue TRPA, claiming the agency’s phaseout of two-stroke engines by 1999 is unfounded and unfairly singles out engines.

In June 1997, TRPA passed an ordinance banning two-cycle engines used to power Jet Skis and other watercraft. The lawsuit was filed October 1997, and U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. dismissed all 18 claims of the suit last week.

“We’re calling it almost total victory,” said Jim Baetge, executive director of TRPA.

The other side disagrees.

Robert Galvin, a member of the South Tahoe Yacht Club and an individual named in the litigation against TRPA, called it “Round 1.”

“This is not a resolution of the issues by any means whatsoever,” Galvin said. “This will probably end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Damrell dismissed several claims entirely but left room for the watercraft industry to “clean-up” and refile some of the claims.

TRPA announced in July of this year that its ban on two-stroke engines would be replaced in December with an ordinance following new emission regulations. However, the date for the ban to start – June 1, 1999 – will remain in place.

“(The court ruling) is only Round 1. It could have gone the other way for us and they would have appealed,” Galvin said. “There may be a whole new set of suits after December.”

Galvin said he is not against TRPA making a ruling to ensure cleaner water in Lake Tahoe. But TRPA’s ban will not allow any “grandfathering” of watercraft. Motorized watercraft already owned or currently sold will not be permitted on the lake.

Galvin said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board have come up with new emissions standards, but allow for grandfathering.

“It needs to be done on a step-by-step basis,” he said.

Trippett, who said he had to close his business because of the ban, agreed.

“We all want to preserve Lake Tahoe, but in every other instance where an agency sets standards like this, those agencies do not ban existing craft,” he said. “TRPA is banning existing craft.”

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

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