Rafting permits come up for renewal
April 14, 2008
The permits that establish operating agreements between Placer County agencies and two Tahoe City commercial rafting companies expire in June, but are likely to be renewed.
The permit renewals for the Truckee River rafting companies will go before Placer’s planning commission in May, said Placer County’s Senior Planner Edmund Sullivan during an informational meeting held April 10 in Tahoe City. The concessionaires should not have a problem with renewal, according to Sullivan.
Loren Clark, Placer’s assistant director of planning, said the permits would carry neither a provision for the commercial businesses to add rafts to their fleet nor to extend the season.
Each company would get 100 permits, Clark said in a subsequent phone interview. The permit cost is $7,305, he said.
Although only two commercial rafting companies are usually awarded the three-year agreement, the issue is not how many companies can operate commercially, but the maximum number of rafts ” 200 “that are allowed on the river at any given time, Clark said.
Although the permit is good for three years, the operators are subject to a yearly review from “every county agency,” said Nick Fuller in phone interview. Fuller is president and operator of Truckee River Rafting company, one of two county-sanctioned commercial companies.
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The commercial rafting business has been declining over the past five years, Fuller said.
“Where we used to be 80 or 90 percent of the rafting, we are now 40 percent,” he said of the two companies by phone.
Although revenues are good, the commercial companies are losing market share to the throw-away raft market, Fuller said. Rafts are purchased at local stores or elsewhere, used once and thrown away, sometimes on the banks of the Truckee.
Because the Truckee is a public river and Tahoe City’s 64 Acres park was established with California Tahoe Conservancy money, Fuller explained, anyone with a float can launch from the concrete ramp there, for no charge.
Another competition for commercial raft operators is the illegal trade, Fuller said. About three to four unscrupulous operators frequent the banks without a license during the season, according to Fuller, renting one or two rafts infrequently enough to not get caught.
The county-sanctioned operators are required to provide some river stewardship, he said. Including river clean-up and contributing to the cost of emptying trash cans and portable lavatories. They must also provide a staging area for their customers off the highway, Fuller said. Another condition of the permits is to provide transportation from the landing back to the staging area.
Insurance and other costs are going up for Fuller and the other operators, including gasoline and diesel fuel, he said.
The impending alcohol ban expected to pass by summer could affect the rafting business this summer.
The alcohol ban is working its way through the California State Assembly, while an ordinance banning alcohol along the river banks will be considered today at the Placer County Board of Supervisors meeting in Kings Beach. The ban would only be imposed, both on the land and navigable water way, during certain times of the summer, namely the Forth of July weekend, said Placer County’s Tahoe Manager Jennifer Merchant in a previous interview.
The commercial rafters are supportive of the ban hoping it will reduce the amount of intoxicated visitors to the river, Fuller said.
“We are tired of the confrontation over the years and now it will be nice to contact the sheriffs and say please take care of this,” he said.
The river is an economic draw for the area, as indicated in a phone conversation with Steve Teshara, the executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce.
Although he could not provide hard data, Teshara said when the commercial rafters are operating, the economic benefits are palpable in downtown Tahoe City.