Rafting operations sidelined on Truckee River
July 17, 2017
After having too much water coming down the Truckee River because of high lake levels, Tahoe City's rafting companies were finally able to get customers on the water in early July.
But after having an excess of water, now there isn't enough and rafting trips have again been sidelined as lake levels have dropped below the upper limit, prompting Federal Water Master Chad Blanchard to close the Lake Tahoe Dam on Wednesday, July 12.
"When we don't need to spill anymore and natural flow is meeting our needs downstream, we cannot legally release water," Blanchard said. "That's the way it's been since 1908."
If lake levels are below the agreed upon elevation of 6,229.10 feet, and the water needs are being met downstream, Blanchard said, the dam will remain closed. He also explained that the lake elevation agreement was established in 1917 between homeowners and water rights holders, and that above the upper limit, shoreline erosion can occur.
The lake level was at 6,228.99 as of Thursday, July 13, according to the water master's daily worksheet.
"We had an inkling when it was coming," said Truckee River Rafting's Richard Courcier of the dam closure. "We just didn't know when the hammer would fall.
"Tahoe has almost stopped rising, and there's no demand down in Reno because they are still getting enough water from tributaries."
Courier said Truckee River Rafting was open for a ninth day this season when they got the call that the dam would be closed.
However, conditions could be worse, even as the company goes from several years of having not enough water for operations into one where there was too much.
"Last year we were open only 18 days total," Courcier said. "The year before that, we didn't open at all because it was too low."
Truckee River Rafting expects to reopen in late July, according to Courcier, and aims to remain open until Labor Day.
Next to the rafting company is Tahoe City's other river outfit, Truckee River Raft Co.
"It's been difficult," said Owner Aaron Rudnick of the summer season. "Most people don't believe you when you say you're not open. Several years of not enough water, and now there was too much."
Both Rudnick and Courcier said that the amount of water in Lake Tahoe should provide for at least two or three good summers of rafting on the upper Truckee.
"There's so much water, there should be some great years over the next few years," Rudnick said.
Truckee River Raft Co. was open for 10 days before the dam closure, and expects to reopen rafting operations in late July. Once the company can get rafters back on the water, Rudnick said he expects a solid end to the season.
"We'll have a pretty good August for recreation around here," he said. "More like our normal flows."
Down river, Truckee's three other rafting companies, Tahoe Whitewater Tours, Tributary Whitewater Tours, and IRIE Rafting Company, remain open because of their operations on other portions of the river.