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Alcohol ban lifted

by Christy Chalmers

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has decided to lift a year-old ban on alcohol at Nevada Beach for Labor Day weekend, but will maintain an obvious presence in the area in case trouble brews.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Lance Modispacher said the decision followed a quiet 1998 Labor Day crowd and a manageable Fourth of July celebration, both of which included prohibitions on alcohol at the beach.

The no-drinking policy was enacted after the 1998 Fourth of July weekend, when young, drunken revelers nearly rioted.

“Hopefully, we’ve broken the mold,” said Modispacher. “We don’t expect a problem, but we’re ready should there be a problem.”

The Sheriff’s Office will keep a visible presence in the Lake Tahoe area, where most visitors spend their time. Modispacher said four or five officers will patrol the beach, along with the county’s boat deputies, Wes Rice and Jim Hill. Officers on bicycles and the county’s motorcycle deputy, Dan Coverley, will help provide extra traffic enforcement in the Stateline area.

“We’re expecting our normal Labor Day crowd, but we’re not expecting any surprises,” said Modispacher. “Just the presence (of officers), I think, keeps things in tune.”

The 1999 summer holiday crowds have been tamer than the 1998 version. After the near-riots on the 1998 Fourth of July weekend, the county passed an emergency ordinance banning alcohol on Nevada Beach during Labor Day. A permanent ordinance that allows the Sheriff’s Office to prohibit alcohol on any holiday weekend was added in May of this year.

The decline in lakeside reveling also appears to have reached the lake, according to the boat patrol officers.

Rice and Hill said they’ve answered fewer complaints about personal watercraft in 1999 than in previous seasons, probably because new regulations have strictly limited the types of engines allowed on the lake. As a result, fewer personal watercraft are available for rent at the lake, they suspect.

“You can usually tell the illegal ones because they look a little older, and if they have two or three (registration) stickers on top of each other, that’s a giveaway,” said Hill. “Some people don’t know about the new regulations, and others admit they know but just thought they would take their chances.”

In addition to watching for illegal watercraft, the officers will be stopping reckless boaters or those traveling fast enough to create wakes within 600 feet of the shore or 200 feet of mooring areas.

“Most people are out there with their families having fun,” said Rice. “They have no idea it’s an infraction.”

The boat deputies advise the errant boaters of the rules, usually providing a pamphlet on boating law.