High lake level has boaters smiling | TahoeDailyTribune.com

High lake level has boaters smiling

Dylan Silver
Dylan Silver / Tahoe Daily TribuneWater washes up onto the banks at Regan Beach in South Lake Tahoe. The lake level is the highest it's been since 2007.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Lake Tahoe’s elevation is rising – kind of.

Last year at this time the surface elevation of the lake was 6,223.35 feet above sea level. This year the water’s surface is 6225.64 feet above sea level.

Simply put, there’s a whole lot more water in the lake than there has been since 2007. And this increase is good and bad for upcoming summer recreation.

“I’m excited we got all this water,” said Kevin Hitkey, owner of Tahoe Adventure Company. “More water is always better than less water.”

After a March that had nearly 250 percent of average precipitation and a year that’s had 160 percent of average, the lake’s usable storage is at 321,000 acre-feet, more than 7.5 times the amount last year, according to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation District.

The extra two feet of water will open boat ramps that were closed last year and give hulls a bit more clearance. On the other hand, the high water will take longer to warm up and it will eat up beaches that only have so much sandy shoreline.

Water enthusiasts like Phil Segal of Paddle Tahoe have even gotten a jump on the season, paddling their stand-up boards along shores still covered in snow.

The high water has made launching the vessels easy, Segal said.

“It’s scary glassy. It’s a lot of fun out there right now,” Segal said. “There’s no boats, no jet skis. The lake takes on a whole different character. Since there’s no movement, there’s high clarity.”

Segal is worried that the increase in water will attract more than the usual amount of motor boaters who disrupt the serenity and surface of the lake for stand-up paddlers and kayakers, he said.

But, regardless, Paddle Tahoe is still anticipating a great season, he added.

Motor boaters will have more access, less of a chance of damaging boats in the shallows and docks that were previously too high for boats will be accessible, said Kris Kierce, a captain at Ski Run Marina.

Turbidity near marinas should be less, he said, because the boats will have more clearance from the lake’s floor.

But there is a downside to the high water, he said.

“The temperature of the lake might stay a little cooler because there’s a lot more water coming in,” Kierce said.

If boaters hear about the increased lake level, or “full pool” as he calls it, Kierce expects boaters and boat business will rise as well.

Hitkey hasn’t heard of too many people hitting the lake yet, but he’s preparing for the incoming summer, he said.

“We’re booking trips for the summer already,” Hitkey said.

“We do a lot of custom trips. That seems to be what people want.”

Beaches around the lake will see be affected by the high water. Down at Regan Beach in South Lake Tahoe, where sand sometimes stretches for tens of feet into the lake, water is lapping at the embankment.

At Kiva Beach, water has broken through a sandy barrier, creating a new tributary.

Apart from the water level, there’s a bigger factor in the amount of water business the lake will see in the coming months, Segal said.

“As far as the majority of tourists coming up, it all depends on the weather,” Segal said.

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