Tahoe’s Sand Harbor boat ramp won’t launch for 2015; others will open | SierraSun.com

Tahoe’s Sand Harbor boat ramp won’t launch for 2015; others will open

An aerial photo of the MS Dixie II and the Zephyr Cove area at Lake Tahoe's southeast shore is seen in April 2015, showing how shallow the water is becoming at the nearshore as further evidence of the Western drought.
Brad Coman / Nevada Appeal |

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — One of the most popular boat-launching ramps at Lake Tahoe will not open this year due to diminishing water levels aided by the continuing Western drought.

The ramp at Sand Harbor would normally open for the summer boating season on May 1. However, with hardly any snowmelt runoff this spring due to a fourth-straight mild winter, that won’t happen in 2015, said Jay Howard, supervisor for Lake Tahoe Nevada State Parks.

“We just recently concluded that … there is not enough water to launch at this point, and I see nothing but the lake going down,” Howard said Tuesday. “Until we get something to get the lake to come up, (the ramp) will be closed until further notice.”

While low-water years in the past have forced State Parks to close the launch early, it marks the first time since the early ‘90s — the last time Lake Tahoe experienced a drought this bad — that Sand Harbor will miss an entire boating season, Howard said.

“We have plenty of water as of now, and I don’t see us having an issue at all.”Sarah Obexerowner, Obexer’s Boat Company, regarding the West Shore ramp’s usage this summer

Lake Tahoe’s water level stood at 6,222.75 feet Wednesday; it dipped below its natural 6,223-foot rim last fall as the Western drought began to dig deeper.

Historically, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which has kept records since 1900, the lake dipped to a record-low 6220.26 feet in 1992.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, roughly 67 percent of California is in “extreme drought” as of this week, while 44.32 percent (including the greater Tahoe-Truckee area) is in “exceptional drought.”

With Sand Harbor, while the boat ramp won’t open this year, the park will be for normal summer operations and attractions, Howard said, including the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, non-motorized vessel rentals, dining and more.

“On the flip side, there will be a lot more beach, and that tends to bring more people out,” he said.


The other Lake Tahoe boat launch operated by Nevada State Parks, at Cave Rock on the East Shore, should be open throughout the summer boating season, although it will be limited from two lanes to one at some point, Howard said.

“At this point, I expect to get a full season out of Cave Rock,” he said. “But, depending on how much runoff we do see in coming weeks, it’s very likely Cave Rock will be down to a single lane by no later than mid season … it could be sooner.”

Closer to home, the Incline Village General Improvement District will be “closely monitoring” the boat ramp at Ski Beach, which will open for the summer season on May 1, said General Manager Steve Pinkerton.

Skilled boaters have been able to launch in recent months, he said. Still, with water levels dipping so low, it will be tough for amateurs to launch safely this spring and summer, said Pinkerton, who added that IVGID will keep the ramp open “as long as possible.”

“We will do everything we can to keep the ramp open the entire season,” he said.

By law, the end of IVGID’s ramp can go to a water level of 6,219 feet, Pinkerton said — that only gives boaters roughly 3 feet to work with, considering the lake’s current level at about 6,222.

Elsewhere around Lake Tahoe, the boat launch at National Avenue in Tahoe Vista isn’t expected to open this year, North Tahoe Public Utility District spokeswoman Tracey Towner said Tuesday.

Further, the launch at Coon Street in Kings Beach won’t open in 2015.


In Tahoe City, the refurbished ramp at Lake Forest reopened Wednesday, April 15, said Kurt Althof, Grants and Community Information Administrator for the Tahoe City Public Utility District.

“We will continue to operate (the ramp) as long as we can,” he said Tuesday, adding that “it’s possible” the ramp will close this summer. “We just don’t know what the lake is going to do — how much is it going to come up, and how much will it evaporate during the summer.”

The ramp just finished a $1.1 million upgrade to provide larger, 15-foot-wide launching lanes in order to meet California boating and waterways standards and safely handle a high volume of launches and retrievals.

Similar to IVGID, Lake Forest’s ramp also extends to 6,219 feet.

On the West Shore, the ramp at Obexer’s Boat Company will “absolutely” be open this summer, said owner Sarah Obexer.

“We have plenty of water as of now, and I don’t see us having an issue at all,” she said Tuesday.

On the South Shore, the ramp at El Dorado Beach will not open in 2015, South Lake Tahoe Public Information Officer Tracy Franklin confirmed Tuesday.

“We don’t anticipate, even if there is a windfall of snow, it would be high enough to open,” she said, adding that the ramp was only open for about a month last year before closing. “The water is not even anywhere close to the ramp.”

Also at the South Shore, dredging began recently in the areas of Ski Run Marina and Tahoe Keys Marina.

At Ski Run, 250 cubic yards is scheduled to be dredged. At Tahoe Keys, one project will remove accumulated sand in the east channel to an approved depth of 6,215 feet. A total of 4,200 cubic yards of material will be removed at the site with an excavator stationed on a floating barge.

Another project near Tahoe Keys will dredge up to 5,600 cubic yards of sand to a depth of 6,217 feet.

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