Truckee River Remains High as Reservoir Water Released
Water is being released from the Tahoe City Dam at a rate we have not seen since 1999, at a rate of 2,000 cubic feet per second.
Water is being released from the Tahoe City Dam at a rate we have not seen since 1999, at a rate of 2,000 cubic feet per second. The minimum flows out of the dam are 70 cfs. Lake Tahoe remains about 1.5 feet from being completely full, and that is why so much water is flowing into the Truckee River.
"We have more water forecast to come into the lake than we have room for," Chad Blanchard, U.S. District Water Master said. "So, we have to pass water to make sure that the volume coming in can be captured and not cause us to go above the upper limit."
Water is flowing through all 17 gates, and 11 of them are completely open.
"I've been coming up here for about 30 years now, and I was up here in '82," Brad Gardner, Richmond, California resident said. "That was pretty spectacular but this is looking great."
The water level is staying consistent, despite the amount of water being released. That is because the inflow is about the same as the outflow. Just a few miles south of Tahoe City, the bike path is under water for long stretches because of extra water being released.
"I took my bike down the Truckee bike path, yesterday, and just got covered in water and I was like 'Okay, so I guess I'm riding my bike in the river, now,'" Ellen Whitcomb, Tahoe City resident said.
Along with Lake Tahoe, upstream reservoirs are releasing water. The river is flowing close to 6,000 cfs through Reno and Sparks. That is the legal threshold. So, once it reaches that point, releases have to be cut back from those dams.
"We're actually going to cut Lake Tahoe release, a little bit today, and a little bit more tomorrow, and the next day," Blanchard said.
The water has gotten more of a brown tint in the past few days, which Blanchard says is a clear sign of an increase in spring run-off.
"As the snowmelt runs across the surface, it picks up little pieces of soil and organic matter and deposits in the river and comes down," Blanchard said.
With a warm week in the forecast, more snow is expected to melt. Since the nighttime temperatures will remain cooler, the snowmelt will taper off. That has caused the river flows to fluctuate. Snow melts throughout the day but stops at night. Blanchard says the run-off from the mountains usually reaches Reno, early the next morning, causing the river to peak.
The higher levels are also noticeable between Truckee and Reno, where whitewater rapids are easy to spot.
"It's impressive," Blanchard said. "Definitely, where there's rocks and any sort of constriction in the river, it really gets ripping."
Spring run-off usually starts getting stored in upstream reservoirs on April 10, but that still has not started. Blanchard says the worst case scenario could see that storage begin in early June, filling the reservoirs by July. River flows will likely remain high until that happens.