Noise Restrictions Could Curtail Tahoe's Loudest Boats

By  | 

Regional regulators at Lake Tahoe are considering new noise restrictions that could impact the biggest, loudest speed boats.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will begin formal discussions later this month that could change the way noise levels are measured at the mountain lake on the California-Nevada border before the end of the summer.

The new strategy would limit noise to 75 decibels as measured from the shoreline. The Reno Gazette-Journal reported in Monday's editions the changes are expected to affect only high-performance racing vessels that lack muffling systems.

"They're really obnoxious," said Lorraine Johnson of Brockway.

The summertime solitude of her lakeside vacation home often is shattered by the deafening screams of muscle boats operating at full-throttle, she said.

"You can hear them for a long, long way," said Johnson, 56. "They go and go and they're really loud."

As Nevada lawmakers did in 2001, officials from California and TRPA said they want to replace outmoded, unrealistic boat noise regulations with new ones.

Under the current rules of California and TRPA, noise from a passing boat speeding at full throttle must be measured from another stationary vessel from only 50 feet away. Officials said that system is difficult to employ and dangerous.

Under the new rules, in addition to shoreside measurements, stationary measurements could be taken near a boat's exhaust. Noise could not exceed 88 or 90 decibels, depending on the age of the vessel.

Since the new system took effect in Nevada's waters in 2001, noise complaints at Lake Tahoe's Nevada side have diminished, said Fred Messmann, boating law administrator for the Nevada Division of Wildlife. He said it also might have moved the problem elsewhere.

"I understand at Lake Tahoe, all of the noisy boats moved over to the California side," Messmann said. "Rather than take chances, they just gravitated over there."

Jerry Wells, TRPA's acting director, said he isn't sure whether Nevada's law really pushed unmuffled muscle boats into California. But Wells said it makes sense that all the lakes' jurisdictions work under the same rules.

One Tahoe county, El Dorado in California, already has adopted a local ordinance mirroring Nevada's noise regulations.

The new regulations make more sense than the old ones and shouldn't impact most boats at Lake Tahoe, said George Prchal, president of Tahoe Vista Sports and North Tahoe Marina.

"I don't see any problem with these," Prchal said.

John Bosche, 49, Brockway, said he would support more efficient noise rules.

"We used to think our ski boats were noisy, but these things are just a lot, lot louder," he said.

Not everyone agrees.

Dave Morse, 60, Incline Village, said he isn't much bothered by boat noise at his Shoreline Drive home. He worries more about a regulation-heavy environment at Lake Tahoe.

"We have enough regulations here already," Morse said. "Big, fast boats have been a tradition at Tahoe since the 30s. Why all of a sudden is that a problem?"