Personal watercraft, those zippy, grown-up toys with names like Jet Ski, Sea Doo and Wave Runner, may soon be banned from Lake Tahoe. Some members of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the California-Nevada coalition that governs local development, have recommended ridding the lake of them, and a decision on the controversial issue is expected Feb. 26.
Those pushing for the ban say water pollution
and noise are the machines' biggest faults. The increasingly
popular vehicles are powered by inefficient, high-decibel
two-stroke engines that discharge as much as 25 to 40 percent of
their unburned fuel directly into the lake.
can certainly see and smell the fuel on the water," says Rochelle
Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. The
federal Environmental Protection Agency has already ordered
manufacturers to reduce engine emissions by 75 percent over the
next nine years, but Nason says the lake can't wait.
Fighting back are personal watercraft
enthusiasts and those who rent, sell and service the machines. They
say the proposed ban is an elitist move by wealthy lakeside
property owners like casino mogul Steve Wynn. "Using the
environmental flag is a little bit off," says Chuck Shapiro,
manager of a Tahoe business that rents watercraft for $70 to $85
per hour. Industry representatives have said they will challenge
any watercraft ban in the courts.