Lake Tahoe fills to the top as massive winter snows melt

If you visit Lake Tahoe this summer, the beaches might seem a little smaller than they were a few years ago.

It’s not an optical illusion. Large sections of them really are underwater.

Dozens of feet of snow that blanked the Sierra Nevada this winter, generated by blizzards from raging atmospheric river storms, have been steadily melting all spring and summer, sending billions of gallons of water rushing downhill and steadily raising the water level at Lake Tahoe.

Sometime, probably this weekend depending on the exact temperature, the lake’s level will reach its maximum legal limit — 6,229.1 feet above sea level — a point that federal officials maintain by releasing water from the gates of the lake’s only dam — the 18-foot-high Tahoe Dam, near Tahoe City — into the Truckee River. On Friday, the lake was less than an inch from that peak level and still rising.

The surface of Lake Tahoe, which stretches 22 miles long, has risen an astounding 8 feet since the beginning of 2016, when it hit a low point during California’s historic 5-year drought.

Put in perspective, all the extra water in the lake now that wasn’t there three years ago is roughly 1 million acre-feet, or 313 billion gallons — enough water to meet the needs of 5 million people for a year. Lake Tahoe’s rise over the past three years is the same as if Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the main water supply for San Francisco, had been emptied into it nearly three times.

In other words, Tahoe is full. Right to the top.

“Standing on the shoreline it’s a huge difference,” said Dave Wathen, deputy water master for Lake Tahoe. “There were big beaches at lower water levels. Sand Harbor Beach near Incline Village is a very big beach. A lot of people could fit on it. Now, it’s tighter. It’s drastically different.”

Lake Tahoe’s water level is 8 feet higher now than it was in 2016, during California’s historic 5-year-drought. (Compass)

Higher water not only means smaller beaches, but higher boat docks, and in some places shoreline erosion. It also means ample water supplies for towns around the lake, cities like Reno, and farmers from Reno to Fallon, Nevada, all of whom depend on Lake Tahoe every year for irrigation and drinking water.

This summer will be the third time in the last three years that the lake has come right up to the edge of its legal limit.

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle

      

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