Dam opened, rafting begins | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Dam opened, rafting begins

Joanna Hartman

Ryan Salm/Sierra Sun

Commercial rafting companies opened for business Wednesday and expect a long and busy summer of floating on the Truckee River.

“We may actually have a more consistent raft year this year than we did last,” said Gary Perona, business manager for the Truckee River Raft Co., which kicked off its season Wednesday. “We are being promised as much as possible that we will have a consistent flow.”

Truckee River Rafting with Mountain Air Sports will launch rafts today. The company hasn’t accepted many reservations for its opening week because the starting date was not set sooner, but they do have people booked for the weekend, said part-owner Judy Bell. Rafting season typically starts sometime between Memorial Day Weekend and mid-June, Perona said, so this year is right on target.

But before the season kicks off, the river flow must be at least 120 cubic feet per second, Bell said.

The U.S. District Court Water Master ordered the Tahoe City dam to open its gates Monday, releasing 100 cfs from Lake Tahoe.

Wednesday afternoon Perona estimated the water flow near 200 cfs and expects the weekend to be closer to 300 cfs.

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“We’re just going to have to wait and see and watch the natural flow in the system, and if that drops we’ll keep increasing [the water flow],” said chief hydrologist Chad Blanchard. “As natural flow drops, we need more and more water from storage to meet those minimum flows.”

Blanchard said the Federal Water Master’s office can release water from Lake Tahoe for only three reasons: To maintain the Floriston rate at the state line of 500 cfs in the summer and 400 in the winter, to release a minimum of 50 and 70 cfs in the winter and summer respectively, or to preclude the lake from exceeding its storage limit.

Last summer the commercial rafting operations endured a few rough business days when Lake Tahoe’s high level forced officials to release surplus water into the river, causing some flooding and erosion, Perona said.

They had to close their businesses for nearly two weeks, he added.

But with a promising start to this year’s Truckee River raft season, commercial operations are counting on a profitable summer.

“It’s going to be a great season, and we’ll go through Labor Day,” he said.

Truckee River rafting FAST FACTS:

• Minimum release from Lake Tahoe is 50 cubic feet per second in winter and 70 cfs during summer

• The upper legal limit of Lake Tahoe is 6,229.10 feet

• Tahoe Whitewater Tours has been rafting between Boca and Floriston since before Memorial Day Weekend

• The Federal Water Master’s office in Reno does not physically open the Tahoe City dam gates, but a local resident does

• Commercial raft companies are hoping the water flow will be at 300 cfs for the weekend

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