Most of us have seen the photos of damage to the roads and infrastructure around Pyramid Lake especially between Sutcliffe and Nixon with the wash out of the highway and loss of water supply to Sutcliffe residents and businesses. Current reporting by the Reno Gazette-Journal says that the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe is not allowing non-tribal members entrance to the Lake because of the damage. The estimated date quoted in the newspaper was sometime in April. For those of us who travel frequently to Pyramid to fish, boat, and look at the abundant bird life, it is hard to stay away, but certainly no one wants to interfere with the fastest recovery for the residents and businesses during the infrastructure re-construction period.
However, the flood of 2017 had a good effect on the water surface elevation of Pyramid Lake. The surface elevation of Pyramid Lake measured on December 1, 2016 was 3792.16. The latest measurement taken on January 31, 2017 was 3793.43. This rise 1.27 feet of the Lake’s water level is very good news for everyone. This is the first rise of water surface elevation at Pyramid Lake in more than 5 years.
Unfortunately, diversions from the Truckee to the Newlands Project took nearly 700,000 acre-feet of water from the Truckee River over the last 6 years. Had those diversions not occurred, Pyramid Lake would be more than 7 feet higher in elevation providing better habitat for fish and recreation for visitors and residents alike. One example are the boat launch facilities: Popcorn Beach and the Marina at Sutcliffe – both of which have been unusable for several years due to low water levels.) While drought does have an impact, the greatest impact to Pyramid Lake is the Newlands Project which diverts water from the Truckee River to the Carson River.
Since 2000, Pyramid Lake fell 27 feet in elevation exposing vast areas of beach and river bottom at Pyramid Lake and impacting tourism, fishing, boating, and the natural environment that supports numerous birds and the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout and endemic Cui-ui fish essential to the cultural identity of the Pyramid Lake Paiute People.