Lake Tahoe’s economy: Late spring runoff may wash out rafting revenues | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoe’s economy: Late spring runoff may wash out rafting revenues

Jason Shueh
Sierra Sun

File Photo/Courtesy Tributary Whitewater ToursRunning the Floriston section of the Truckee River is one of several rafting options in the Lake Tahoe area.

TRUCKEE/TAHOE and#8212; It’s May. It’s been snowing. And snowing. And still in the forecast and#8212; snow.

And if Tahoe residents weren’t already drained by the icy white onslaught, now water officials are estimating a late water runoff could jeopardize Tahoe’s peak rafting holiday: July 4 weekend.

and#8220;This is an extremely late runoff right now and it looks like this may be latest water runoff peak in 40 years,and#8221; said Chad Planchard, chief deputy water master for the Truckee River Operating Agreement organization in Reno.

Because of the unseasonably cold temperatures and high snowfall, Planchard said the water flow into Reno hasn’t fallen below 500 cubic feet per second, the minimum water level before Truckee River operators will open reservoirs for water flow down the Truckee River.

and#8220;What it does it makes for a later start,and#8221; Planchard said and conjectured the July 4 weekend to be a complete unknown for commercial river rafting.

Richard Courcier, co-owner of Mountain Air Sports Truckee River Rafting in Tahoe City, said the belated spring and summer temperatures will be tough for his business and for his employees, who are dependent on the summer work.

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Should rafting companies miss July 4, Courcier said it would mean a significant loss for his company and compared the summer holiday to Christmas vacation for resort industry which he said generates a commanding revenue for resorts.

However, Planchard said there’s still time for a rebound.

and#8220;We still have all of June and things can change,and#8221; he said.

Aaron Rudnick, owner and operator for the Truckee River Raft Company, said he’s still undecided about the weather.

and#8220;From a business stand point you don’t want to miss July 4 weekend,and#8221; Planchard said. and#8220;There’s going to be a lot of people here.and#8221;

If tourists are unable to use the river, Planchard said crowding may drastically impact the basin as thousands of people who’d normally be on the river stay in the downtown areas or are pushed to the trails and beaches.

Giving an example, he said during peak day his company usually floats about 1,200 people on the river. If those customers decide to stay landbound Planchard said serious congestion problems are possible.

On the other hand, he said the positive might be a higher water flow later on in the year.

Either way, Planchard said he remains firm not to open unless water conditions are right, water levels at 150 cubic feet per second or above.

and#8220;We want it safe and we want it fun; and if its not, we’re not going to jump the gun.”