Shallow water at Lake Tahoe leads to halted cruise operations |

Shallow water at Lake Tahoe leads to halted cruise operations

Griffin Rogers
The Tahoe Queen sits in shallow water in this photo taken in January 2015.
Griffin Rogers / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Shallow waters at Lake Tahoe have forced Lake Tahoe Cruises to suspend operations on the Tahoe Queen and Tahoe Paradise, leaving the company’s cruise business high and dry for the time being.

The decision was announced Friday after the company completed an evaluation of certain water channels and paths used by the ships during tours, said David Freireich, spokesman for Lake Tahoe Cruises’ parent company, Aramark.

“We will continue to monitor the lake’s water level and will resume cruise service once the water level rises to the depth needed for the vessels to safely navigate the lake,” according to a statement sent by Freireich.

The Tahoe Queen was already out of operation under a no-sail order from the U.S. Coast Guard, which deemed earlier this month that a broken hydraulic sprocket on the ship needed to be fixed before the paddle wheeler could return to the lake.

On Tuesday, Freireich said Aramark is “still working with the Coast Guard to address” those concerns.

The Paradise effectively replaced the Queen on Jan. 21, two days before the announcement that it would stop running due to low water levels.

With the Tahoe Queen and Tahoe Paradise out, the company’s only cruise ship left on the South Shore is the M.S. Dixie II. However, the Zephyr Cove-based Dixie is undergoing maintenance and will not be ready until sometime in the spring, Freireich said.

The Queen and Paradise operate out of Ski Run Marina, about five miles south of the Dixie’s location.

According to Freireich, the company is doing its best to contact affected customers and provide full refunds for the inconvenience.

As for Lake Tahoe’s water levels, they don’t appear to be improving anytime soon as the region experiences another mild winter.

The lake’s water level dipped below its natural 6,223-foot rim last fall and was at 6,222.43 feet Tuesday. The record low for Lake Tahoe occurred in 1992, when the water dropped to 6,220.2 feet above sea level.

Snowfall could obviously bring the water level back up, but statewide data is so far showing a significant shortfall in water derived from snowpack.

According to the Department of Water Resources, the snow water equivalent on Monday, calculated with more than 100 sensors in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, was 4.3 inches, or 27 percent of normal for that date.

Further information on the region’s snowpack will be available after DWR’s second manual snow survey this Thursday.

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