TAHOE CITY, Calif. — While the commercial rafting season on the Truckee River is over due to low water levels, people can still recreate on it, raising the question: Who will clean up trash left behind?
“The amount of trash in the river can be appalling,” said Aaron Rudnick, owner of the Truckee River Rafting Company. “... When you’re pulling out multiple trash bags worth of garbage just in the river, that’s unacceptable.”
As part of their permit conditions, commercial companies such as Tahoe City-based TRRC are required to clean up garbage left behind by river users during their season.
Yet, the company’s operations ended July 24, and neighboring Truckee River Rafting and Mountain Air Sports shut down July 25, Rudnick said.
“After they shut down, the responsibility for ensuring the cleanup has historically fallen to no one,” Jennifer Montgomery, Placer County Supervisor for District 5, said in a statement.
With at least another month in the rafting season, Placer County, in partnership with Tahoe National Forest, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the U.S. Forest Service and Truckee River Watershed Council, launched a cleanup plan late last week.
“It takes a tremendous daily effort to keep the river clean,” Rudnick said, including swapping out garbage bags and cleaning the river and its banks of cans, bags, food wrappers and other debris.
The plan involves twice-daily pickup and removal of litter/trash, and checking of portable restrooms for cleanliness and supplies at launch points between Tahoe City and the River Ranch Lodge & Restaurant.
Tahoe City Public Utility District staff, who already manage the river bike path, will handle cleanup.
When asked if cleanup within the river’s waters will occur, Montgomery said: “We are working on a plan to address this as needed (and) not on a daily basis due to the reduced number of rafters for the remainder of the season.”
While commercial companies collect a fee from each rafter to fund cleanup, there is no mechanism for agencies to collect a similar fee from the private public who launch into Truckee River, Montgomery said.
Cleanup for the rest of the season should cost less than $4,000, she said, with $1,000 coming from the USFS Truckee Ranger District; $2,500 from county Transient Occupancy Tax funds; and in-kind labor from the Generation Green team (valued at about $800 a day), which is underwritten by the county’s portion of federal Rural School Funding.
The plan is expected to cease in early to mid-September, dependent on number of rafters who continue to use the river, Montgomery said.