Higher Lake level allows sternwheelers back in bay | RecordCourier.com

Higher Lake level allows sternwheelers back in bay

by Griffin Rogers
Passengers board the M.S. Dixie II backed by snowcapped peaks in Desolation Wilderness Area.
Tahoe Daily Tribune file photo |

A Lake Tahoe paddlewheeler that couldn’t cross into Emerald Bay earlier this year because of shallow waters will now be able to resume the run thanks to rising lake water levels.

The M.S. Dixie II already has made some tours of the bay but is undergoing maintenance now.

A second big tour boat, the Tahoe Queen, also had been tied up due to shallow waters but now is back in service and bringing tourists into the bay. Both boats are operated by divisions of Aramark Parks and Destinations.

Tahoe water levels had risen several inches since January. On Thursday, the surface of the lake was at 6,224.24 feet above sea level, up from 6,223.58 feet about three months ago.

Recent storms have contributed to the increase. But a poor snow season has added relatively little water content for California’s reservoirs, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

“This is dismal news for farms and cities that normally depend on — often called California’s largest reservoir — for a third of their water,” DWR stated in a press release. “And reservoirs are not making up the difference.”

Low lake levels this summer could create a number of challenges for boaters, lake-related businesses and agencies that patrol the lake, including the U.S. Coast Guard.

Earlier this year, Federal Water Master Chad Blanchard said water levels could dip below Lake Tahoe’s 6,223-foot natural rim and create several challenges in the region.

“Although 2013 was the driest calendar year on record for much of California, last-minute November and December storms in 2012 — the first year of the current drought — replenished major reservoirs to somewhat mitigate dry conditions,” the Department of Water Resources said.

“That comfortable reservoir cushion is now gone.”