Snowmelt will fill reservoirs to near limits
Lake Tahoe and Truckee reservoirs will be filled to the brim this summer after the fifth wet winter in a row.
“It should turn out to be an exceptional water year with exceptional lake levels,” said Garry Stone, the federal watermaster.
The California Department of Water Resources measured the Sierra snowpack April 1, finding the snowpack to be 146 percent of a long-term average.
Using snowpack data, the federal watermaster – using court decrees governing water rights – has set the course of Lake Tahoe’s level and the flow of the Truckee River for the spring and summer months.
The National Resource Conservation Service has figured that there is enough spring run-off to raise Lake Tahoe’s level by 2.1 feet, Stone said.
“We’ve got room for about one foot,” he said.
The lake level Wednesday was at 6,227.95 elevation feet.
The legal limit for the reservoir storage on top of Lake Tahoe is 6,229.1 elevation feet, while the natural rim of the lake is 6,223 elevation feet.
In order to lower the lake enough to hold the spring run-off, the watermaster will be releasing from the Lake Tahoe dam about 400 cubic feet per second into the Truckee River during April and up that to just under 600 cubic feet per second in May, June and July.
However, the weather can change the scenario dramatically.
“We’re kind of at the mercy of Mother Nature,” said Stone.
Last spring, a wet and rainy June forced the watermaster to increase the flows of the Truckee River to nearly 1,800 cubic feet per second, which is high enough to flood the Truckee River Bicycle Trail.
The reservoirs around Truckee – Prosser, Boca and Stampede – have been at their flood control levels, but are slowly being filled again as of last weekend, he said.
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