Noise Restriction Bill....May Help Us


Well-Known Member
Subject: STOCKTON RECORD - New CA Bill Will Lower OHV Sound Limits

*Quotes from BRC, State Parks, and landowners who support lower sound levels.... remember the old saying...
"less sound equals more ground."

Don Amador, BRC

Law to muffle off roaders
Davis signs bill to control whine of dirt bikes
By Francis P. Garland
Lode Bureau Chief
Published Saturday, September 28, 2002

ARNOLD -- It's being billed as the most sweeping reform in the 30-year history of California's off-highway vehicle program.

To Bill Karches, though, new legislation designed to aid off-highway vehicle users and at the same time protect the environment is more like music to his ears.

That's because the new law will make off-highway vehicles quieter -- and noise is an issue for folks such as Karches, who live near the off-highway haunts of dirt bikers and ATV enthusiasts.

Karches lives in Arnold's Lakemont Pines and for years he said he's had to contend with the whine of dirt-bike and ATV engines whizzing through the nearby Stanislaus National Forest.

"It was to the point where we were looking to find another place to live," said Karches, who since has decided to stick it out with the hope that things will improve. "I'd go outside on the deck and within 10 minutes they'd come roaring by. I'd get up, slam the door and windows and grumble and mumble.

"We like the idea of living in the mountains -- just not here."

The new legislation, signed by Gov. Gray Davis earlier this month, will take effect in January. It will move California's off-road noise emission levels from one of the nation's worst to one of the nation's best, state officials say.

The law, crafted by off-road vehicle enthusiasts, nonmotorized recreationists, environmental groups, private property owners, business owners and public land managers, reduces the maximum decibel level standard from 101 db to 96 db for stock off-road vehicles manufactured after Jan. 1, 1986.

The law also makes more funding available for law enforcement, conservation and restoration projects for lands damaged by off-road vehicle use.

The legislation also initiates a planning process for acquiring and developing more off-highway vehicle recreation areas and calls for a number of studies to better understand off-highway vehicle recreation trends and the need for more facilities.

The bill's co-author, Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Fred Keeley, D-Boulder Creek, said the law protects the environment and ensures continued access to recreation opportunities "by striking the right balance between conservation, law enforcement and those who recreate off-road."

Specifically, the new law requires that 100 percent of fuel taxes attributed to nonregistered off-highway vehicles -- an estimated $21 million a year -- be earmarked for conservation, enforcement and restoration services. Of that amount, about $14.7 million will be used for conservation and enforcement and about $6.3 million will be used to restore areas damaged by off-highway vehicles.

"That's a major increase in environmental protection from this program," said George Barnes of the Sierra Club.

Joe Rosato, a spokesman for the off-highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of the state Parks and Recreation Department, said that in the past, conservation and enforcement efforts received about $12 million.

The legislation also requires the state Parks and Recreation Department -- in conjunction with the California Highway Patrol -- to develop a voluntary off-road safety program by January 2005. The goal of the program is to reduce accidents and protect the environment.

The noise-reduction element is applauded by folks such as Karches and fellow Arnold resident Judith Spencer, who heads a group active in off-highway vehicle issues pertaining to the Stanislaus National Forest.

Spencer said 96 db "is still a lot of dbs. Anything that's loud enough to penetrate normal conversation is still too loud for us close (to dirt-bike trails)."

But Del Albright, a Mokelumne Hill resident active with the BlueRibbon Coalition, a nationwide recreation group, said reducing the noise levels could go a long way toward solving the ongoing issue in the forest interface area -- neighborhoods on the fringe of the Stanislaus Forest near Arnold.

Don Amador, another BlueRibbon Coalition member, said most riders are willing to accept reduced noise levels "because everyone realizes that sound is one of our biggest issues -- and we all want to address it."

But Brad Warwick, general manager of Dave Bird Motorcycles in Sonora, said he doesn't know any riders who favor tightening of noise regulations. "More regulations, more big brother, bad idea," Warwick said. "Anything that says more regulation, I'm against. We already have too damn many laws."

Warwick said noise might be an issue in larger OHV parks that attract scores of riders, but not in the Stanislaus Forest. "This is just someone else on the bandwagon being Crusader Rabbit," Warwick said.

Debra Ross, general manager of Stockton Honda Yamaha, said reducing noise emissions from 101 db to 96 db could translate to a loss of performance for some bikes but that most riders likely won't be greatly affected. "If they went another 7 or 8 db, that would restrict your engine," Ross said.

Riders like Camren Saville, though, don't like the idea of quieting their bikes. Saville, a 14-year-old Avery resident, said muffling the sound would prevent a bike from running at its maximum efficiency. "It clogs everything up," he said. "There's no power."

Dan Dungy, superintendent of the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area, said the new standards will "knock a couple of horsepower off" most bikes.

"If you're a real avid rider, you're probably going to notice a difference and it might irritate you," said Dungy, who likened it to moving from a new computer to an older one. "But for 90 percent of the off-road riders, it's not going to make a difference."

Dungy said meeting the new noise standards will provide challenges for some OHV owners but that new products likely will hit the market to help them meet those challenges.

"When there's a will, there's a way," he said. "There's a big, ripe apple out there to pick."

Dungy said noise testing already is under way at his park, using the existing standards. A decibel meter is placed 20 inches away from the exhaust at a 45-degree angle and the engines are run at a specific rpm different for each manufacturer, he said.

"If they don't pass, they don't ride," he said. "They know that's what we'll do come January."

CORVA Field Rep - So. Cal.