Truckee River alcohol ban heads to Capitol | SierraSun.com

Truckee River alcohol ban heads to Capitol

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun file photoRafters head down the Truckee River the day after Fourth of July, when hundreds of rafters floated the river, creating a rowdy atmosphere.

Placer County will pursue state legislation to forbid the use of alcohol on the Truckee River over the Fourth of July holiday, the county’s board of supervisors decided Tuesday at a meeting in Kings Beach.

The meeting was held at the North Tahoe Community Conference Center.

Spurred by excessive public drunkenness, litter, nudity and traumatic injuries by rafters and other revelers this past holiday, as well as subsequent environmental damage to the watershed, the county has discussed an alcohol ban over the course of the past several months.

The county already initiated discussion with a state legislative advocate about prohibiting alcohol on a limited section of the river for a limited period of time.

Reaction to date has been positive, a county report stated.

At Tuesday’s meeting in the North Tahoe Community Conference Center, supervisors directed staff to pursue the issue into the state legislative arena.

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Nearly twice as many rafters floated down the Truckee River below Tahoe City this July compared to previous years. According to Placer County’s Environmental Health Department, more than 1,100 rafts with 2,000 people aboard floated the 3.5-mile stretch of river from Tahoe City to the River Ranch between noon and 2 p.m.

Some suspect the increase was related to a holiday alcohol ban on the American River in Sacramento County, the location of several rowdy melees on past holiday weekends. Sacramento authorities later lobbied state lawmakers to adopt a holiday drinking ban on the river.

The Placer board told county staff Tuesday to draft legislation broad enough to forbid alcohol throughout the time period surrounding the holiday.

The board also requested the proposed statute include the authority to extend the ban to additional time frames, if needed in the future.

“I’d like to have the ability … that if we find certain times that we need [the alcohol ban] and that once the legislation is done, we can add more,” Supervisor Bruce Kranz said at the meeting.

But the Fourth of July period is the primary focus for the ban, Kranz said.

“In talking with the people who have been involved with this, they believe that the Fourth of July is it,” he said.

Because the Truckee River waterway is under state jurisdiction, and 60 to 70 percent of the banks along the river is federally owned land, such legislation would require a multi-tiered approach spanning several government agencies.

The county has discussed the matter with the U.S. Forest Service and received the federal agency’s support to ban alcohol on the river during certain time periods, said Jennifer Merchant of the Placer County Executive Office.

Further clarification is needed regarding enforcement at the 64-acre site in Tahoe City that is a common parking and launching site for rafters, Merchant said.

The Placer County Sheriff’s office also stated its support of the proposed ban.

Lt. Julie Jeffs said she would like to review the legislation to ensure the draft language includes no loopholes, so sheriff’s deputies could enforce the ban completely.

Other residents, the Chamber of Commerce and local business owners have also supported the legislation, Merchant said.