Monthly Archives: April 2017

Releases from Tahoe into Truckee River increase … again

Reno Gazette-Journal Photo in printed newspaper 2-26-17

The Truckee River during the drought was often a trickle at Lake Tahoe. When the Lake was  barely above or below its rim, little or no water flowed into the river. Until this winter kicked in, Lake Tahoe has been very close or below its rim since the summer of 2014 resulting in greatly reduced Truckee River flows pretty much through 2016. Now, however, the water surface elevation at Lake Tahoe is 6,227.7 feet – or 1.4 feet from its maximum legal elevation thanks to the record rain and snow.

Truckee River at Tahoe 4-26-17

Truckee River at Tahoe 4-26-17

Today, flows from Lake Tahoe into the Truckee River are running 2,000 cubic-feet-per-second (CFS). A week ago flows were around 1,200 CFS and went up to a little more than 1,600 CFS for five days before jumping higher today.

This spring will see more water in the Truckee River than we saw after the big winter of 2005-2006.  That summer, Lake Tahoe didn’t quite reach its maximum legal elevation. This year forecasts are calling for the Lake to reach that milestone (6,229.1 feet). It hasn’t actually been that full for 20 years.

As I said in an earlier post, let’s hope that this isn’t a “one of a kind” winter, but we have a followup with a wet one in 2017-2018, too.

Truckee River flows at Farad, CA - 4-26-17

Truckee River flows at Farad, CA – 4-26-17

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Pyramid Lake’s Truckee River Delta

American White Pelicans hang out at the Truckee River delta at Pyramid Lake April 2017.

After a long drought for Pyramid Lake and the Truckee River, the Lake and river flows are finally up. The delta of the Truckee River at Pyramid Lake is a magnet for all kinds of birds and wildlife, and this year shows what can happen when flows approach more natural, unregulated conditions. Dams still control the flows of the Truckee River, but because of the large amount of precipitation and snowpack still to melt, this year resembles what likely occurred in the Truckee River most years before large-scale diversions and dam building. [The diversions and dams  dropped Pyramid Lake 80 feet and reduced the Truckee River to a trickle at the Lake’s delta by sending most of the water to Lahontan Valley Farms.] For the last hundred years, Pyramid Lake receives most of its water from the Truckee River in exceptional water years – like this one. We can only hope that this winter isn’t another “one and done” event and next year brings plenty of precipitation and snow. Wildlife at Pyramid Lake would probably agree.

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Storms continue to raise Tahoe; majority of snowmelt still to come

After years of dry winters starting with winter 2011-12, the current winter season of 2016-17, brings a surge of water for the Truckee River, Lake Tahoe, and Pyramid Lake. This spring’s high water covers floodplain lands along the Truckee River for the first time in a decade where restoration of the river have occurred at The Nature Conservancy’s McCarran Ranch, the 102 Ranch, Lockwood and other areas downstream of the Truckee Meadows. Through Reno and Sparks, water laps at park benches and smacks into bridge abutments bringing residents and visitors alike to witness the racing runoff. The Truckee River’s flowing at a rate 7 times greater than last year. (Even more telling, the flow rate is 29 times greater this April 21 verses the meager flow in April 20, 2015.)  And Lake Tahoe’s storage has increased by 27 times over last year.

Truckee River April 2017 in at Whitewater Park.

  •   Truckee River flow at Tracy
    •   169 CFS: April 21, 2015
    •   714 CFS: April 20, 2016
    • 4970 CFS: April 20, 2017
  •   Tahoe water surface elevation and storage
    • 6222.74 feet, storage is negative 31,522 acre-feet: April 21, 2015
    • 6223.17 feet, storage is 20,640 acre-feet: April 21, 2016
    • 6227.69 feet, storage is 571,400 acre-feet: April 21, 2017

Flow rate in cubic-feet-per-second (CFS). [Note: 1 CFS =  7.5 gallons-per-second = 448.8 gallons-per-minute (GPM); Water volume in acre-feet: 1 acre-feet = 325,851 gallons].

Pyramid Lake has risen from its low point at the beginning of 2017 by some reports of more than 4 feet. The last official measurement from the USGS is reported at troa.net as 3796.56 feet above sea level on March 31, 2017. It was at elevation 3792.16 feet on December 1, 2016. Diversions to Lahontan Reservoir ended January 12, 2017 after it became clear that Lahontan Reservoir would reach capacity from flows from the Carson River. As of today, managers at the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District, who control the Dam at Lahontan, are dumping water from the reservoir as rapidly as possible due to expected high flows of the Carson River for the next few months.

Have we made up for the drought conditions that have plagued western Nevada since 2000? Not likely with any single high flow year, but this will be an exceptional year and will go a long way to help the area streams, lakes, and groundwater to see a significant rebound over conditions of just a year ago.

The Truckee River mouth at Pyramid Lake is close to 1/4 mile across as it enters Pyramid Lake with hundreds of American White Pelicans and California Gulls watching for migrating fish.

American White Pelicans and Double Crested Cormorants rest waiting for a feast of Cui ui and Lahontan Cutthroat Trout migrating from the Lake to spawn in the Truckee River.

The Truckee River mouth at Pyramid Lake is close to 1/4 mile across as it enters Pyramid Lake with hundreds of American White Pelicans and California Gulls watching for migrating fish.

The Truckee River mouth at Pyramid Lake is close to 1/4 mile across as it enters Pyramid Lake.

Truckee River April 2017 in at Whitewater Park.

Truckee River flows at Pyramid Lake are hitting 5,000 CFS April 20, 2017.

Truckee River flows at Pyramid Lake are hitting 5,000 CFS April 20, 2017.

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