A river runs … red? | SierraSun.com

A river runs … red?

Joanna Hartman/Sierra SunThe Truckee River, shown here at The River Ranch, was colored red Wednesday morning when the USGS did a dye-tracing study.

The Truckee River drew attention Wednesday morning as the water flowed red.

United States Geological Survey Water Resources Division began the dye-tracing study Tuesday night between Lake Tahoe and the Little Truckee River.

“We were asked by the University of Nevada, Reno and I think the Truckee Meadows Water Authority to evaluate the time of travel along the Truckee River,” said Steve Berris, USGS supervisory hydrologist. “That is in case there is a toxic spill somewhere along the river, it provides authorities a guideline on the timeline for when a toxic spill would arrive at certain sites.”

The time of travel will be measured by the different location of the dye plume along a 25-mile stretch of river. Geological survey crews use rhodamine red dye and then sample the water at a number of stations along the Truckee corridor.

“It’s completely nontoxic. It’s a pretty simple study,” said Berris.

Researchers poured the dye into the Truckee River just below Fanny Bridge, turning the river a bright crimson downstream. Although a USGS spokesman said the federal agency had notified some public agencies, others were caught by surprise, including officials with Placer County and the North Tahoe Public Utilities District.

USGS has completed several time-of-travel studies in the past from between Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake, Berris said.

Employees at The Crest Cafe at Alpine Meadows noticed the water’s discoloration Wednesday morning around 6:15 a.m. on their way to open up the shop.

“It’s been pretty constant since we got here,” said part-owner Lisa Laliotis.

But Berris said the color would be unnoticeable by around noon.

“It disperses over time so you can’t even see it,” he said.

The study was scheduled to be complete at the Boca Bridge by 6 p.m. today.

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