Officials for the Tahoe Transportation District outlined their plans this week for the project they described as an environmental asset as well as a transportation tool. The ferries would travel between marinas at South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City.
"It would be equivalent to a light rail corridor for Tahoe," project manager Alfred Knotts told Lake Tahoe News. "This is part of the long-term vision and how each piece creates a regional transit system."
Comments are being taken until Jan. 3 on the notice of intent of preparation for the project. The comments will be incorporated into the draft environmental impact report and draft environmental impact statement, which are expected to be released in about a year.
It's estimated that during peak summer travel the boats would make eight trips a day, carrying 120 passengers on about a 25-minute cruise. Cost of the boats and marina upgrades are estimated to be $33 million with an estimated $3.3 million in annual operating costs.
Organizers say they will solicit state and federal grants to help finance the operation but can't pursue those until the environmental reviews are completed.
Knotts briefed the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's Advisory Planning Commission on the plans on Wednesday.
Concerns raised at the meeting include potential impacts on fisheries and the viewshed as well as the possible need for dredging of the lake and a lack of parking.
Knotts said the goal will be for ferry riders to get to the marinas by walking, biking or taking a shuttle bus rather than driving their own vehicle.
"We don't want parking spilling over to business or residential areas that could be adversely impacted," Knotts said, adding it may mean increasing the bus service to make that happen.
Transit officials have been looking at Washington state ferry service to come up with a vessel that could handle the needs and conditions of Lake Tahoe. As a contingency plan, buses would be used to transport people back to the originating marina if lake conditions became too rough.