Incline Village GM Corner: A fuller Lake Tahoe means smaller beaches (opinion)
Thanks to all of you who filled the Chateau to capacity for our Beaches 101 presentation back on July 11.
For those of you who missed the presentation, no problem! Just go to the “Resources” section of our website (yourtahoeplace.com) and you can watch the entire meeting, and download a copy of the power point presentation along with a lot of other pertinent information — including the deed to our beaches.
We’ve had another busy summer at the beaches, and for the second summer in a row, it has seemed even busier than normal. The beach has “felt” busier because we’ve had a lot less beach to enjoy the past two summers.
As most of you know, the size of our beach is dependent on the amount of water residing in beautiful Lake Tahoe. The legally defined rim of the Lake is at 6,223 feet above sea level. In drought years it can drop up to 3 feet below the legal level, to around 6,220 above sea level during the winter and to as low as 6,223 during the summer. In wet years, the lake can reach an elevation as high as 6,229 above sea level during the summer.
So how does lake level translate into beach size?
The higher the rim of the lake, the more it encroaches onto our beach. Over the past 35 years, the average lake level in mid-summer (July 22) is 6,225.86. Since 2000 the average is 6,225.54 — marginally less. While a third of a foot doesn’t seem like much, it actually translates into about 4 feet difference in the depth of our beach. In fact, for every foot of lake level, the depth of the beach expands or contracts by around 11 feet.
I know this is a lot of numbers, so I will try and translate this into your beachgoing experience and explain the graphics that I’ve included in this article.
The summer of 2016 marked the fourth straight year of low lake levels. Not quite as low as 2015 (6,222.77), when we had near record low winter snowfalls, but still below average with a mid-summer 2016 Lake level of 6223.67
Last summer, due to all the snowmelt from our Stormaggedon winter, the mid-summer lake level surged to 6,228.93 — and has remained nearly as high this summer as well at 6,228.67. Thus, the rim of the lake elevated over 5 feet between 2016 and 2017 — and around 6 feet since 2015.
I’ve used Google Earth satellite photos from the summers of 2016 and 2017 to show the impact of a 5-foot increase in lake level. The photos include a graphic measuring the distance from the Incline Beach playground retaining wall to the edge of the beach. On each photo, I’ve drawn a line showing the respective distances for 2016 and 2017. As noted on the photos, the depth of the beach is 56 feet shorter in 2017 than it was in 2016!
So how does this translate into total beach size?
Incline Beach stretches along the lake for approximately 690 feet. In 2016, there was approximately 104,190 square feet of sandy beach area (2.39 acres) whereas in 2017, we had approximately 65,550 square feet of sand (1.50 acres) due to the higher lake level.
In other words, we have 38,640 less square feet of beach — which equates to a 37 percent reduction in sandy area to recreate. In 2018, we have a couple of feet more beach, so the reduction since 2016 might be closer to 35 percent.
On Ski Beach, there also was a 56 foot decrease in beach depth between 2016 and 2017. However, ski beach has a lot less depth than Incline Beach. The increased lake level reduced the beach depth from 89 feet to 33 feet, which is a 63 percent reduction.
So while we’ve had a busy summer at the beaches, our daily attendance hasn’t varied all that much the past few years. However, Mother Nature has played a big role in determining how much space we have to accommodate all of our summer beach goers.
We understand the challenge of reduced beach space, and appreciate everyone practicing respectful beach etiquette.
As the summer winds down, we would like to thank the community for creating great memories with us this year and we look forward to seeing all of you on the slopes of Diamond Peak this winter!
GM’s Corner is a monthly column from IVGID General Manager Steve Pinkerton, who discusses issues and offers updates regarding various district matters. He may be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.