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High river force rafters off water

Joanna Hartman
Ryan Salm / Sierra Sun/ Rafters duck under a pipe on the Truckee River on Tuesday in high water conditions. The river has been closed to commercial rafters due to these same conditions.
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TAHOE CITY – With the Truckee River running high, local business owners worry that commercial float rafting will be closed Fourth of July weekend again this year.

Both Mountain Air Sports and Truckee River Raft Co. shut down their operations Tuesday because of high water, and are unsure how the rest of the week will pan out.

“(We’re) really hoping for the weekend,” said Richard Courcier with Mountain Air Sports. “It’ll be a bummer to miss the Fourth again this year.”

Courcier said he speaks with the Federal Watermaster in Reno every morning regarding the lake level and the release of water into the Truckee. Chief Hydrologist with the Federal Watermaster, Chad Blanchard, quoted Lake Tahoe at 6,229.06 feet Tuesday morning, with the Truckee River flows up from 754 cubic feet per second Monday to over 1,000 cubic feet per second Tuesday. Tahoe’s legal limit is 6229.1 feet.

This week’s prediction depends on a slowing snowmelt and chances of precipitation, Blanchard said.

“We’re having to react to what conditions are doing now,” said Blanchard. “Our (June) forecast is inaccurate.”

Additionally, Courcier said he is concerned with the safety and trash issues associated with the increase in private floats when the commercial businesses do not run rafts.

The commercial raft companies do not raft with river flow at or above 800 cubic feet per second, although county ordinances allow public and private floats at river flows up to 1,205 cubic feet per second.

This discrepancy between commercial and private rafting flows leaves room for accidents, with plenty of overturned boats on the river, Courcier said.

Truckee River Raft Co. Manager Michael Nichols said he is also concerned with giving his 65 employees the work they were hired for, as well as the mess private floaters leave behind.

Last year his company retrieved more than 500 discarded rafts after the Fourth of July weekend, littered alongside garbage and broken beer bottles.

Other business owners are also affected by a river closure.

“(We like) to see people floating by as it creates a good atmosphere,” said Front Street Station’s Kurt Hyatt, who added he is counting on riverside business exposure.

Last year the Dam Cafe took a hit when the commercial raft companies closed, but owner Jen Campbell is confident that it will all turn out OK this year.

“Everyone operates with a smile no matter what,” Campbell stated. “It’s Tahoe.”


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