Dam gates closed early on Donner Lake | SierraSun.com

Dam gates closed early on Donner Lake

The gates on Donner Lake were closed more than a month early to begin filling for summer.

Water authorities usually close the lake’s gates around April 15 to begin filling the lake to summer levels. But in response to low winter precipitation and warm weather, the lake’s overseers closed the gates Monday to begin capturing runoff earlier than usual.

“This is just a precautionary thing,” said Bill Hauck, water supply coordinator for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority. “It’s just in case this warm weather continues.”

Regulators took into account the existing snowpack and potential runoff, which is expected to be just half of normal, Hauck said.

“The forecast is showing 50 percent of average stream flow runoff, and that’s assuming normal conditions from here out, so it could be even less,” Hauck said.

He said he doesn’t expect the lake to fill immediately, and the rate of water released into Donner Creek will be adjusted to changing conditions.

“We won’t be filling it this month, just raising it slowly,” Hauck said. “With the warm weather we want to make sure we are capturing all the runoff.”

Donner Lake resident Charlie White said the lake must be filled by Memorial Day as part of a water-use agreement, after which water is released and the lake level lowered in late fall.

“Different lake levels have to be maintained at certain times of the year,” White said.

Hauck said in addition to serving Donner Lake property owners, lake water also supplies the Reno-Sparks area, but doesn’t anticipate the early closure cutting into water supplies downstream significantly.

“There is plenty of water in the [Truckee] River, this is only diverting a small fraction,” Hauck said.

While Donner Lake supplies a significant amount of water to downstream users, Lake Tahoe is the biggest contributor, he said.

“There is more than enough water storage in Tahoe,” Hauck said. “There should be normal river flows for the rest of the year ” but next year could be a different story if we have another dry winter.”

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