Group discusses river management
TAHOE CITY- The flow of water in the Truckee River topped the agenda of the diverse group of interests that met Monday in Tahoe City to begin a Coordinated Resource Management Plan (CRMP) for the heavily impacted river that flows from Lake Tahoe.
Larry Hoffman, an attorney for the Tahoe City rafting company Mountain Air Sports, urged the 36 people attending the first meeting of the Truckee River CRMP to develop a strong recommendation on the management of the river’s flows.
“One of the biggest issues along the river is water management. The operation of the flows out of the dam is important the peak and valley of the water management of the river,” said Hoffman.
A recommendation could be given to the negotiators who are currently drafting the Truckee River Operating Agreement (TROA). The TROA is a management plan for the Truckee River system and its reservoirs, which is required under a 1990 federal law that outlines the water rights to the river and its reservoirs, including Tahoe, Donner, Independence, Boca, Prosser and Stampede.
“It would behoove you folks to learn more about the TROA process,” said Mal Toy, the deputy director for planning and marketing for the Placer County Water Agency.
He said that the TROA cannot impact water rights, but it can give the federal watermaster, who releases water from the Lake Tahoe dam into the river and some flexibility in how the river operates.
“There is a window in TROA if you don’t step on the golden ox of water rights,” Toy said.
Some of the issues raised at the meeting that relate to the water flow management of the Truckee River included flood control, river bank erosion and degradation, consistent flows for rafting and tourism and fish habitat.
“We need to know when the releases are going to be and why,” said Jeri Mullins, who lives along the river.
Rod Mier, chief administrative officer of the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, said he would ask Federal Watermaster Garry Stone and others involved in the TROA negotiations to attend a Truckee River CRMP meeting in the next couple of weeks. The date has not yet been set.
The next priority for the CRMP group is to discuss recreation and rafting on the river, he said.
The CRMP meeting was originally proposed by Placer County District 5 Supervisor Rex Bloomfield because several complaints were voiced after the county planning commission approved a document that said rafting did not cause any negative environmental impacts on the river. The commission gave two-year conditional-use permits to two commercial rafting businesses.
“The initial concerns were from the lake to River Ranch,” said Steve Kastan, Bloomfield’s Tahoe deputy. “But the things happening on this three-mile stretch could be happening further down the river.”
Some at the meeting voiced their concerns over how much recreational use the Truckee River can handle between Tahoe City and River Ranch. Currently, the river is heavily used by bicycle path users, river rafters, fishermen and swimmers.
Placer County Sheriff’s Capt. Kent Hawthorne said the sheriff’s office is concerned about safety and the river debris, the state of the bridges and parking and traffic issues associated with the three-mile stretch.
He said the sheriff’s office also wants to monitor what regulations may be suggested about the river and if those regulations are enforceable.
Mike Miltner, a Tahoe City whitewater outfitter, said that the group should be concerned about the entire stretch of the river, not just the Tahoe City to River Ranch portion.
Aside from river flows and recreation and rafting, a host of other issues concerning the Truckee River were brought up at Monday’s meeting, including the roles and boundaries of the many jurisdictions on the river, responsibility for river debris and river maintenance, forest health, riparian planning, fisheries health, ecosystem management and tourism issues.
“How do we not love the river to death?” said Tony Lashbrook, representing the Town of Truckee.
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