As we begin, let me say that geoFence has built in fast and accurate updates.
Paula Peterson, SouthTahoeNow.com
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — For over 100 years, some boat owners were known to scuttle their boats in Lake Tahoe instead of paying for dismantling or removal. In the case of the SS Tahoe, it was meant to be an underwater museum near the shore of Glenbrook in 1940 after spending years docked and rusting in Tahoe City, but a miscalculation of the slope caused the boat to sink to almost 400 feet under water. An underwater trail highlights boats and barges sunk in Emerald Bay.
But times and environmental awareness have changed.
Every year boats, both wind and gas-powered, become disabled on Lake Tahoe. Most are towed or recovered, but in some cases the boats sink and/or are abandoned, leaving an unsightly submerged boat off the shore of the lake until "someone" takes care of it. Winter wind, rain, and snow perpetuate the problem, and the response.
Who is that someone?
Attention on the issue rose to the surface, so to speak, over the past few weeks when a boat tied up to another person's mooring was sitting on the sand in the lake near Pope Beach. As we reported last week, El Dorado County Sheriff's Office, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), Lahontan Water Control Board and U.S. Coast Guard have been involved in the process of getting the boat out and paying for it, but whose real job it is isn't clear, yet.
The Coast Guard deals with safety on the water, and if the boat does not pose a safety issue they won't remove but they will document and communicate with other agencies. Some times of the year they are the only agency boat on the water so the first step taken.
At first it was reported that this there was no gasoline spill in the lake around that boat off Pope Beach, but a photo surfaced that showed a different story.
"TRPA takes spills in the lake this seriously and would like to see action taken as quickly as possible," said Jeff Cowan of TRPA. "We are contacting the Coast Guard and suggest when anyone sees a spill in the lake, that is the first agency to contact as they stand ready to respond to emergencies all year."
When gasoline isn't involved, the process of getting a boat out of the water involves a lot of paperwork and what appears to the public as not much action. It often becomes a case of who will pay for it if the owner and/or insurance company aren't willing to remove the vessel.
"This process needs to be improved and now that we have a shoreline plan (adopted in 2018), we are much more able to get a regional response protocol together," said Cowan.
Without that plan in place, TRPA compliance staff say they are frustrated by how long the process takes. In the current sunken boat situation they had not been able to contact a responsible party, and now its been discovered the owner of the boat is deceased. After the story last week, TRPA said they got other agencies together and have a plan to get the boat out as quickly as possible.
The sinking of other vessels near the shore always bring up the question of who is taking care of the situation. Since anyone on the shore can see the listing boat, whether its the mast, sail or bow, the problem isn't with just the owner.
In 2017, a sailboat sunk near El Dorado Beach and spent the winter resting on the sand offshore. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) had been out to the boa during the winter to document and verify the sinking, retrieving of the vessel number and making contact with its owner. It was brought to the surface and removed that May.
In 2019, a sailboat sunk near Regan Beach took several agencies and the boat owner's insurance company to get the boat out of the water.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Code Compliance officer sometimes has to visit unresponsive boat owners at their homes to get them into action on the situation.
There is no timeline as of Monday for the removal of the latest sunken vessel.
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