In the middle of a dry summer
Lake Tahoe boaters are feeling the effects of this year’s drought along with Nevada farmers.
Steve Weiss, South Lake Tahoe parks superintendent, said the city has restricted access onto the lake from the El Dorado Boat Ramp because of low water levels.
Weiss said access depends on how large the boat is, what kind of tow vehicle is used and how skilled the driver is.
He said boats need about 2 feet of water to launch safely and the boat ramp is operating with about a foot and a half more than that.
Weiss said if the water drops another foot, the city will probably shut down the ramp.
Federal Water Master Garry Stone said he expects the lake to be about 8 inches above its natural rim come November, which is about a 2-foot drop from the lake’s current elevation.
By law, the federal watermaster must release water from either Lake Tahoe or Boca Reservoir, just north of Truckee, into the Truckee River to supplement the river’s flow for fishing and recreation. However, Boca experienced an extreme shortage this year, making Tahoe the main source of released water.
Reno has experienced the driest year on record since 1872, and Tahoe City has suffered the seventh driest since records began in 1932, according to the National Weather Service.
The National Drought Mitigation Center categorized much of Northern Nevada as suffering from extreme drought.
Early in the summer, many were reluctant to use the politically sensitive “D” word. Now there’s no doubt that drought has shouldered its way into the region in a big way, said Gary Barbato, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.
“Let’s just admit it, we’ve got a bad drought going on,” Barbato said.
Water stored in Lake Tahoe is expected to provide sufficient water supplies for the Reno-Sparks area.
Elsewhere, things are grim. On Friday, the Carson River was flowing at only about 30 cubic feet per second, far below normal levels.
Farmers across the state are reaching the point where they are cut off from their water rights and are being forced to halt irrigation, Kelly Redmond of the Western Regional Climate Center said.
”They’re cutting off water rights that are not cut off very often, maybe every 20 to 50 years,” Redmond said. ”There’s just no question this year is among the driest in the last 100 years or so.”
Experts agree there’s little chance conditions will change this summer. Drought conditions could end only if the area gets a wet fall and winter. And whether that occurs is, of course, anyone’s guess.
”We could easily have a wet year,” Redmond said. ”We don’t know the source of this dryness. We just really don’t know.”
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