Low-water time in Tahoe area | TheUnion.com

Low-water time in Tahoe area

TAHOE CITY – John and Laurie, visiting from Redlands, tried to launch their Schiada race boat from Lake Tahoe’s Sand Harbor on Monday but were turned away because the boat launch closed last week due to low water level.

Sand Harbor park rangers sent them to the Lake Forest boat launch in Tahoe City. After driving 45 minutes, the couple arrived at Lake Forest only to find signs warning, “Low water, launch at your own risk.” Despite only 3 feet of water at the end of the ramp, the pair decided to launch anyway.

Like the rest of the Western United States, Lake Tahoe is in its fifth year of drought. Halfway through the summer, the lake is only 1 foot above the natural rim, the lowest it’s been in the last five years. Low water level is forcing early closures of boat launches, such as the one in Sand Harbor, and could bring about an early end to the rafting season, as well. This has some recreation and marina officials concerned about the economic impact to the area.

The Nevada Division of State Parks made the decision to close the boat launch, which normally operates year-round, last month. State Parks requires a minimum lake level of 6225.35 feet for launching. As of Monday, the lake was at 6224 feet. Park rangers worry that the shallow, rocky water could damage boats or trailers.

In western Nevada County, Nevada Irrigation District Operations Manager Terry Mayfield Friday said district lakes are in good shape for recreation, despite low precipitation levels this year.

The Cascade Shores boat ramp on Scotts Flat Lake will probably have to come out of the water in late August as the water level drops, Mayfield said. The ramp across the lake accessible from Highway 20 should remain open through the end of the recreation season, which is Labor Day.

At least one of the two ramps at Jackson Meadows Reservoir will be accessible through Labor Day, Mayfield said, and no problems are foreseen for Rollins Reservoir boat access.

Lake Tahoe dropped to its current level last year, but not until October, State Park Supervisor Richard Keller said. With only two boats a day launching in the fall, compared to 200 during July and August, State Parks posted warning signs rather than barricading the launch.

Like Sand Harbor rangers, the North Tahoe Public Utility District, which runs the boat launch at the Kings Beach State Recreation Area, is recommending that boats over 20 feet launch at Lake Forest. But Bob Bryant, assistant to the general manager at the Tahoe City Public Utility District, estimates that the Lake Forest boat launch has only about two to three more weeks left before it will close. Even with the metal aircraft landing mats that were installed last year, extending the concrete ramp by another 20 feet into the water, the lake level around the launch is dangerously low.

Dave Moller of The Union

contributed to this story.

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