Merchants come together to push for earlier rafting season |

Merchants come together to push for earlier rafting season

As far as Tahoe City businesses are concerned the message is clear: A decreased rafting season translates into a deflated economy.

The North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and the Tahoe City Downtown Association have plans to draft a letter on behalf of the business community to the Federal Water Master and to contact Sens. Harry Reid, Nev., and Dianne Feinstein, Calif., after meeting with members of the business community and users of the river Thursday.

“We can’t be America’s year-round playground if we don’t have summer activities like rafting,” said Ed Miller, executive director of the Tahoe City Downtown Association.

The two float rafting companies that operate on the Truckee River in Tahoe City depend on flows from Lake Tahoe to drive their business.

The Truckee River Operating Agreement ” a 1935 agreement struck between users of Trucker River water ” states that the flows on the river have to be at least 500 cubic feet per second, which is monitored by a gauge near Farad, Calif. Once the river falls below 55 cfs, the water master then releases water from Lake Tahoe at the Tahoe City Dam. If the water on the Truckee is flowing at a rate above 500 cfs., then the minimum rate of release from the lake is 70 cfs in the summertime, which is required by law for habitat maintenance.

However, the rafting companies in Tahoe City need at least 200 cfs coming from Lake Tahoe to begin rafting operations. They say anything below that leaves them unoperational. But the water master won’t release water from the lake until it is required by law.

“We’re not asking anyone to violate TROA,” said Steve Teshara, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, “but we’re asking them to consider the human element.”

Last year, rafting season didn’t open until July 15, which caused businesses to lose out on the July Fourth weekend ” the busiest rafting weekend all year. This year has the same characteristics that prevented early rafting last year ” a big, late-season snowpack.

“Rafting is a huge thing for our visitors,” said Kathleen MacAllister, director of the chamber. “It’s a trickle effect. They come to raft and stay on and eat lunch and shop.”

Teshara said he hopes to have the letter drafted in a week, with the final version out in two weeks. He said follow-up calls will be made to see if there has been any progress on the matter.

At the meeting Thursday were representatives of the rafting companies, restaurants, other businesses, Placer County and the Tahoe City Public Utility District.

Participants at Thursday’s rafting meeting said that commercial rafting increases the safety and cleanliness on the river.

“My fear would be if we don’t have commercial businesses, people will go out on their own and someone will get seriously hurt,” said Steve Teshara, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, noting that the river is not as safe as it is perceived. “We view the commercial operators as part of the solution.”

The rafting companies are also required to pick up trash on the river when they are operating, but when private rafters are on the river the entire community has to chip in.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a mess like I’ve seen then,” said a Tahoe City PUD representative of the river after July 4 last year when the agency collected three truckloads of trash, including huge bags of garbage and 21 torn and abandoned rafts.

“Rafting companies help clean up the river,” said Kathleen MacAllister, director of the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.

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