More beach to emerge at brimming Lake Tahoe
RENO (AP) – Brimming nearly full thanks to a winter of historic snowfall, Lake Tahoe is finally showing signs of leveling off and soon should expose the submerged shoreline that’s kept beachgoers at bay most of the summer.
The lake has enough water to cover the state of California in more than a foot of water. But since October, the lake has risen to more than twice its seasonal norm of 2.29 feet since October. As of Tuesday, it was only 8 inches below the federally mandated limit.
The 5.27-foot gain is the sixth-biggest rise since record-keeping began in 1900, according to Dave Wathen, a federal hydrologist and deputy water master for the lake.
At some places, as much of 40 feet of beach normally accessible has been under water. Wathen said that will change as evaporation catches up with inflows from mountain streams.
For the third consecutive day, the level was recorded at 6,229.41 feet above sea level on Tuesday. It typically peaks in late June but more than 61 feet of snow fell in the Sierra Nevada this season – second-most on record to the 65 feet that fell in 1950-51.
“It’s almost there. It was a heck of a ride,” Wathen said.
The change in lake level will be slow and hardly noticeable. Even on the hottest and windiest days, when evaporation levels are at their greatest, the lake will lower only by a quarter-inch or so per day, Wathen said.
How much the lake will lower before rain and snow start to raise levels again come winter was unknown, because it is largely dependent on the weather. One projection by the U.S. Water Master’s Office suggests levels could drop about 1.5 feet between now and the end of the year.
That could expose a few more feet of beach, but maybe not before it’s too cold for beachgoers to notice.
Paul Mileo, of Zephyr Cove Resort, estimated about 40 feet less beach than last summer at the popular spot on Tahoe’s southeast shore. He said he has watched as it climbed steadily over the course of the year.
“You could really see it come up. It’s been exciting,” Mileo said. “I haven’t ever seen it this high. “It’s awesome.”
Wathen said if the area experiences even an average winter next year, Tahoe should fill completely, and managers will likely have to release water from the spillways at the dam in Tahoe City, Calif.
“It’s amazing what one year can do,” he said.