Boat launching areas drying up |

Boat launching areas drying up

Melissa Siig
Court Leve / Tribune News Service / The U.S. Coast Guard station off Lake Forest in Tahoe City will be able to launch boats for a couple of more weeks.

TAHOE CITY – With the boat launch at Sand Harbor closed because of low water levels, many choose to put their boats in the water at the Lake Forest facility in Tahoe City.

But Bob Bryant, assistant to the general manager at the Tahoe City Public Utility District, estimates that the Lake Forest boat launch has only about two to three more weeks left before it will close as well.

There boaters are greeted with 3 feet of water at the end of the ramp and a sign that offers the grim warning: “Low water, launch at your own risk.”

Lake Tahoe is in its fifth year of drought. Halfway through the summer, the lake is just 1 foot above the natural rim, the lowest it’s been since 1999.

The Nevada Division of State Parks made the decision to close the boat launch, which normally operates year-round, last month. State Parks requires a minimum lake level of 6,225.35 feet for launching. The lake was at 6,224 feet on Monday. Park rangers worry that the shallow, rocky water could damage boats or trailers.

Last year the lake went down to the same level, but not until October, he said. Just two boats a day launch in the fall, compared to 200 during July and August.

Like Sand Harbor rangers, the North Tahoe Public Utility District, which runs the boat launch at the Kings Beach State Recreation Area, is recommending boats longer than 20 feet launch at Lake Forest.

Bryant said when the water at the end of the ramp drops another half-foot to 2.5 feet, the district will close the launch for safety reasons.

A big winter is the only development that will put an end to the five-year cycle of low, summertime lake levels. According to Federal Watermaster Garry Stone, without precipitation, the lake will drop to its rim sometime in September.

“The only way to make it up is to get an above-average snowfall year,” said Stone.

The last time that happened was in 1995, he said.

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