Truckee River floods continue halt to floating | SierraSun.com

Truckee River floods continue halt to floating

Kara Fox
Sierra Sun

Lake Tahoe is at its highest level in six years, which means flows on the Truckee River are looking too dangerous for float rafters over the holiday weekend, and the bike trail is flooded up to 12 inches in places on Highway 89 south.

“We will get it down as fast as we can. It depends what the rain does,” Chad Blanchard, chief hydrologist with the Federal Watermaster’s office in Reno, said of the Truckee River. “We’re hoping to get it under control and back down.”

As of Thursday morning, Lake Tahoe was at 6,229.07 feet, just .03 feet from its legal limit. The rate of release from the Tahoe City dam Thursday was 1,620 cubic feet per second, which has caused dangerous rapids and overflow on the bike trail.

The two Tahoe City float rafting companies stop their commercial business when the river flows above 800 cubic feet per second. Both Mountain Air Sports and Truckee River Raft Company have halted operations since Tuesday and will continue to do so until the water is less dangerous.

The Fourth of July weekend is the busiest time for local rafting companies.

“Four sections of trail are under water between Tahoe City and Alpine Meadows and range from 6- to 12-inches in depth,” said Cindy Gustafson, assistant general manger for the Tahoe City Public Utility District. “We don’t remember this happening in the last 10 years in the summer months. It happened during the ’97 flood, but during the flood event.”

Kerri Flaherty, operations manager for Tahoe White Water Tours based at the bottom of Alpine Meadows, said that her company usually runs tours from Boca to Floriston but because of the high water, they opted for another route Thursday.

“We’re going downstream a little bit because the flows make the river pushy,” Flaherty said. “Once the water comes down a little, we’ll run Boca. It’s too high right now.”

Blanchard noted that the release rates were higher from 1996 to 1999, with the peak at 2,630 cfs in 1997.

“This is very common when we fill Tahoe,” Blanchard said. “In the last six years we haven’t had to release a lot of water because the lake hasn’t been filled. It just depends what the lake does.”

With flows on the Truckee River the highest they have been in six years and float rafting companies shut down for operation, it is advised that individuals do not try to navigate the river on their own.

The water on the Truckee River is so high that it is touching the underside of bridges, according to Sheahan Oliver, an employee with Truckee River Raft Co.

Oliver also noted that boats are flipping due to rapids and currents.

“It is too dangerous for people to go rafting on their own,” Oliver noted. “And children should not go at all.”