Lake getting lower by the day |

Lake getting lower by the day

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneSwimmers and watercraft inter mix in the shallow waters off the El Dorado Beach shoreline.

If Lake Tahoe’s low water level continues on its present course, the federal agency assigned to rescue boats caught in tight spots may have to find an alternative launching pad.

The U.S. Coast Guard has watched the level sink to its lowest point this season at 6,224.42 feet, according to water officials. The Coast Guard’s 100-yard pier in Tahoe City allows a minimal 2 1/2-foot clearance.

“We’re barely scraping the bottom. If it drops another foot and a half, we won’t be able to launch,” Coast Guard Operations Manager Billy Whitted said Wednesday.

Plan B may require launching out of the Lake Forest Public Utility District docking area or Star Harbor.

The Coast Guard receives an average of two or three calls a week from boats that have run aground. Many lose their propellers in rocky cove areas that Tahoe boaters find desirable. Some boaters have even run aground in front of the Coast Guard station.

A few weeks ago, the lowering lake level prompted the Coast Guard to move the swimming buoys about 15 feet farther from the Camp Richardson beach.

On the South Shore, the only two operable boat launches are in the Tahoe Keys and Cave Rock.

Whitted said he’s surprised more accidents between boaters and swimmers haven’t occurred. This has been a concern among operators of the South Lake Tahoe city and El Dorado County patrol boats.

Both marine units’ props received damage in the last few days from hitting obstacles.

“Pretty soon we won’t be able to dock in the Keys,” city marine Officer Chuck Sohrt said Thursday. “They’re probably going to have to dredge.”

As the lake drops to its rim level — 6,223 feet — as anticipated by mid-November, the Coast Guard plans to heighten its level of security.

Garry Stone, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation water master, reported that the lake level at 6,225.47 last year was 1 foot higher in contrast to this season.

The level was measured at about 3 feet higher in the summer of 2000, despite a lackluster snowpack year gauged at half the normal amount, Stone explained. The effects of snowpack on water level are delayed.

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