Early water release from Tahoe impacts Truckee River fishery
October 31, 2008
With Lake Tahoe nearing the point where water will no longer be released, one has to wonder what is best for the overall health of the Truckee River. We have seen a different way of managing the water in this jurisdiction this past year with the passage of the Truckee River Operating Agreement (TROA).
The Federal Watermaster appears to have much more latitude in where he releases his water to maintain the court-mandated flows.
This is the first year in my memory ” after following the flows in our area for nearly 31 years ” that water from Lake Tahoe was used early in the season to maintain the court-mandated Floriston rate. Water has been released early in prior years when the lake was too full. There is a court mandate to do this in order to prevent shoreline erosion and damage to lakefront homes.
As a fisherman, I have serious concerns if this is going to be the management policy of the future. The reason this is of great concern is that the conditions in the Truckee River from Tahoe City to Truckee are too low to support that fishery at 31 cubic feet per second and 28 cubic feet per second at Granite Flat. An absolute minimum flow for fisheries would be 40 cubic feet per second.
This will only get worse as the lake drops. With Boca at 19,900 acre feet at the present, it seems that we should be considering the entire health of the river rather than merely the water supply for Reno. In drought years such as this, Boca would have been typically in the 5,000- to 6,000-acre-foot range this time of year.
In prior years Lake Tahoe was the water of last resort, and we would not have been running it out so early in the season as we did this year. What this policy does is sacrifice the entire section of River between Tahoe City and almost to Boca, where the outflow of the Little Truckee River enters the main Truckee River.
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While this policy may not be bad in normal water years, in a drought scenario as we are experiencing now, we should be releasing more water out of the other reservoirs first, and then the water out of Lake Tahoe. This would help keep the section between Tahoe City and Truckee by maintaining some sort of reasonable flow for a much longer period of time, thus helping our local fishery.
It really saddens me to see the low flows in this section of river, knowing that the lake will soon drop below its rim and the Truckee will virtually dry up between Tahoe City and Truckee. The fishery will take a big hit with the loss of both fish and other aquatic life.
The river is an important part of our existence. It provides us with some tremendous recreational opportunities, which are a very important part of our local economy. We should strive to maintain a better balance in our most precious resource, which is water.
A simple management policy releasing less water in the spring and summer months from Lake Tahoe, I feel, would have spared the fishery from the major concern that we are having now. Let’s all hope for a decent winter snowpack so that we can have more water to make better management decisions in the future.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.