by: Elizabeth Sedway, TahoeKidsGuide.com
A favorite summertime activity, when visiting the Lake Tahoe area, is rafting down the Lower Truckee River, that portion of the river between Tahoe City and the River Ranch. This popular portion of the Lower Truckee River is 5 miles long and adjacent to California Highway 89 (also know as River Rd). Locals and tourists alike rent sturdy rafts and paddles to float through peaceful, quiet stretches, exciting rapids, and a variety of riffles and pools found in this section of the Truckee. All that’s over for the summer of 2014, however.
Historically, the Truckee River Raft Co., is operational late into the summer, sometimes closing solely because the summer season has ended, and not due to lack of water. Unlike years past, this river rafting company closed on July 25th, because of insufficient water flowing down the river. Opening on May 30th, Truckee River Rafting was operational for less than a month this year.
In previous years the Lower Truckee River was supplied water by Lake Tahoe and various streams flowing directly into the river. Because of current drought conditions, streams presently provide very little if any water to the river. Lake water will not likely flow into the Lower Truckee, by way of the dam in Tahoe City, in amounts greater than those currently being released.
The explanation as to why the rafting businesses, between Tahoe City and River Ranch, does not have enough lake water to sustain the Lower Truckee River rafting business this year can be found in a federal agreement called, the 1935 Truckee River Agreement (TRA), This agreement governs the various water rights and safety considerations associated with the Truckee River, Lake Tahoe and other bodies of water in the area. According to Jeff Boyer, TROA Implementation Coordinator more water than is currently being released from Tahoe, can only be released under the following circumstances:
1.) To meet a minimum fish water flow below the dam, as is being done now, 2.) As is necessary to meet the Floriston Rate. No additional release of water will be necessary to meet the Floriston Rate this summer 3.) to keep the Lake from over-filling and damaging the shoreline. Given current drought conditions, this third criteria is not likely to be triggered either.
For now, those interested in rafting the Lower Truckee River are forced to hope for good (if not great) snowfall amounts this winter, and enough water for a long 2015 rafting season.