Summer drained away |

Summer drained away

Andy Bourelle

Fallen Leaf Lake may look a little more shallow now than it did during the summer.

It is one of the few lakes in the Lake Tahoe area that is lowered at the end of the summer.

Jeff Reiner, fisheries biologist for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said the amount drained depends on each year’s water runoff.

In the fall inflow to Fallen Leaf Lake from Glen Alpine Creek dwindles. However, officials want the outflow from Taylor Creek to remain at a certain rate.

Also, the level of Fallen Leaf Lake is dropped to allow for more storage for the next runoff year.

“We have to lower the gates to allow enough storage,” Reiner said. “If we didn’t, the facilities toward the upper end of the lake would almost be under water.”

Four other area lakes – Echo, Silver and Caples as well as Lake Aloha in the Desolation Wilderness – are lowered as part of the El Dorado Hydroelectric Project.

Water is diverted to the American River and, according to Beth Paulson with the Eldorado National Forest, a hydroelectric plant near Pollock Pines uses it to generate electric power for a limited number of customers. Also, after the water is used for power generation, a portion is used for consumption by some area residents.

Paulson said the project is in a relicensing phase, which will establish how much and when water is taken from the lakes.

Reiner said many of the lakes in the Desolation Wilderness still have old dams that are no longer operated.

Two other lakes in the basin – Spooner and Marlette – have dams but are not lowered, according to Mark Kimbrough, district ranger for the Nevada Parks Division.

The release of water from Lake Tahoe itself into the Truckee River is regulated by the Federal Water Master.

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