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Rafting permits renewed

Darin Olde, Sierra Sun

Commercial whitewater rafting on the Truckee River lives, and in turn, whitewater rafters give the Truckee River new life, say adventure guides.

“Before commercial rafters started taking care of the river, (the Truckee River) was by far the dirtiest river I had seen anywhere,” said Tom Powers, a commercial rafter from Tahoe City.

Powers and dozens of other rafting advocates made it clear to Nevada County Planning Commissioners last week that they care for the health of the Truckee River.

“Let us stay out there and keep the river clean because it won’t happen if we’re not out there,” said Powers.

Laura Duncan, Kurt Lorenz and G.B. Tucker were the three Nevada County Planning Commissioners present at the hearing in Truckee to review commercial rafting permits for four separate rafting outfits. The permits must be renewed every two years.

The commissioners approved renewing the permits, but not before hearing passionate testimony by whitewater enthusiasts from Tahoe City and residents of Hirschdale, who wanted verification from the county that the rafters were following the rules.

“I am not against rafting,” said John Minus, a Hirschdale resident with a home near the Truckee River. “I just want to see that the ordinance is followed and addressed.”

The rafters are required to comply with a county ordinance that dictates the conditions or guidelines under which they must work.

“Is the county getting written notice of transfer of days?” asked Minus, of a condition that requires the rafters notify the county in advance when they don’t plan to use their maximum allotment of rafts on the river per day. The condition allows other outfitters to use more days if they’re not being used.

Stephanie Wagner, a planner with the county, said the notices are on file.

In approving the permits, which will allow up to 10 rafts on the river between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. for each of the four operators, the commission added two conditions.

One requires that commercial rafters display, in some form, when a trip down the Truckee River is non-commercial, and the other that the rafters show proof of business ownership and location to the county before receiving their permits.

While the additional ordinances won’t increase complications for rafters, Mike Miltner, owner of Tahoe Whitewater Tours, said the current ordinance still needs revision.

“The ordinance is excessive and abusive,” said Miltner. “We are definitely willing to live under (these conditions),” but added that he would like the opportunity to change or improve the legislation.

Commissioner Tucker asked Miltner what, exactly, he opposes in the ordinance, and suggested several specific topics, including sanitation.

Miltner jumped at the opportunity, and cited the requirement that tour operators clean parts the river they are not permitted to use. He further described water vessel rights described in the California Constitution and called the ordinance discriminatory, unfair and unreasonable.

Even Minus, the Hirschdale resident who spoke up at the meeting, supported the point on behalf of the rafters.

“We don’t want more restrictions or more fees (for the rafters)” said Minus. “I’m just living my life and I see things.”


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