Tahoe releases to slow to trickle for a week | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe releases to slow to trickle for a week

Patrick McCartney

For the first time in three months, the federal water master today will reduce the amount of water released from Lake Tahoe – but only for a week.

The action will allow public agencies downstream from Lake Tahoe to assess damage caused by the New Year’s Day flood, according to federal Water Master Garry Stone. Continued high water on lower stretches of the Truckee River had prevented the agencies from inspecting the damage.

But reduced releases from Lake Tahoe should give inspectors access to the problem areas.

“We intend to make dramatic reductions for a week,” said Stone.

The reduction is the first since Stone opened all 17 gates at the 6.1-foot storage dam in Tahoe City on Dec. 11 to cope with near-record precipitation during December.

Because heavy precipitation continued in January, the lake continued to swell, peaking on Jan. 5 at an elevation of 6,229.39 feet, 5 inches above the legal maximum established in the 1935 Truckee River Agreement. The level was the highest the lake had reached in 70 years.

By Monday, however, the lake had fallen about 20 inches, to 6,227.67 feet. The falling lake level provided the lake with enough capacity to accommodate a typical spring runoff, which begins around April 1.

This morning, Stone will order the flow of water into the Truckee River to be reduced from 1,950 cubic feet a second to 1,200 cfs, and to 650 cfs at 4 this afternoon. On Wednesday, the water master will again reduce the flow, to 100 cfs, where it will stay until next Tuesday.

Then, Stone will increase the release to 1,200 cfs. Lake Tahoe releases will likely remain above normal until the spring runoff is complete.

Wet weather could have delayed the plan to reduce flows in the river, but a weekend storm, as predicted, barely dusted the basin with a light layer of snow.

While the amount of water released from Lake Tahoe, as well as from a series of reservoirs farther down the river, is under the water master’s control, Stone cautioned downstream agencies to keep a close eye on the weather. Sidestreams, which are adding substantial flows to the Truckee River below Lake Tahoe, are not controlled by dams, and can rise suddenly in wet weather.

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