Friday, December 21, 2007

Boat engines on Tahoe to burn cleaner

unedited 12-07 Tahoe Mt. News

By Kathryn Reed

Because 15 percent of the vessels in California have 25 percent of the engines that generate about 50 percent of the emissions, the state Air Resources Board is mandating these boats – including ones that chug along Lake Tahoe – be more efficient by 2015.
Lake Tahoe Cruises, which runs the Tahoe Queen, MS Dixie II and Tahoe Paradise, could end up paying $1.5million to retrofit the three boats, according to Port Capt. Chris Gallop.
“The maritime industry is going to take a huge hit,” Gallop said of last month’s decision. “In my opinion it’s not bad to get cleaner burning engines, but it’s extremely cost prohibitive.”
He said he’ll be working on a grant from the California Clean Air Act to help pay for the changes.
In the past year, Aramark, which owns the three South Shore boats, spent a quarter million dollars to upgrade the propulsion system that drives the paddle-wheel on the Queen. In December 1996, the three yellow Caterpillar turbo charged, fuel injected diesel engines were replaced. At the time, they were the cleanest burning engines on the market.
Gallop doesn’t foresee Aramark pulling the plug on its Tahoe operation because of the impending requirements. He added that it’s much less expensive to deal with new engines than buying a new boat.
“It would be a shame if we couldn’t retrofit them,” Gallop said while surveying the engines located below one of the boat’s bars.
To get the engines to their operating location, a hole had to be cut in the deck above them. They were assembled on location.
Every five years or 17,000 hours the engines are rebuilt. The same goes for the five engines that propel the Dixie. The Paradise has three engines – though they are much smaller than the paddle-wheelers’.
The goal of the Air Resources Board, which is a division of the state Environmental Protection Agency, is to reduce diesel soot and nitrogen oxides by 40 to 50 percent by 2015 and by 60 to 70 percent in 2025 when compared to 2004 levels.
“While harbor craft play a vital role at our ports and along our coast, they also contribute significantly to air emissions most responsible for premature death, respiratory illnesses, and increased risk of heart disease. With today's vote, ARB is now regulating yet another diesel source that has fouled California's air for years,” ARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols said in a Nov.15 press release.
The state has 4,200 harbor craft – which includes ferries, excursion boats, tug and tow boats. The new regs don’t affect recreational or ocean-going watercraft.
Even though the Dixie is based in Nevada, Gallop said his company would make sure all its boats operating on California waters abide by that state’s rules. It is not known if it would legally have to.
Gallop will be going to a Passenger Vessel Association meeting in February, which he said should shed more light on the specifics of what the state’s rules will mean to Tahoe and where funding may come from for the engines.

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