Sen. Reid visits Tahoe Dam, celebrates restoration |

Sen. Reid visits Tahoe Dam, celebrates restoration

Melissa Siig, Nevada Appeal News Service

For some, $300,000 may seem a bit costly for a face lift. For the “grand little old lady of the Truckee River,” though, it was just enough.

The lady — 90 years old — is more formally called the Lake Tahoe Dam. At the mouth of the Truckee River, the 1913 dam holds 750,000 acre-feet, or nearly three times the storage of all the other Truckee reservoirs combined.

The six-month restoration project was celebrated Monday by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John W. Keys III during the annual Lake Tahoe Summit. The two praised the partnership between the states of California and Nevada and remarked on the dam’s history.

About 50 people gathered next to the Gatekeepers Museum in Tahoe City to commemorate the rehabilitation.

“We think of it as a face lift for the grand little old lady of the Truckee River,” said Betsy Rieke, reclamation bureau area manager for the Lahontan Basin. “We think she looks pretty good for her age, 90 years old.”

The dam had never had major repairs. The project, completed in June, replaced rotting wood, exchanged the closed shutters for glass windows, rebuilt the roof, provided a backup emergency power supply, and provided a new coat of paint.

Keys, who flew in from Washington, D.C., for the sixth annual summit, talked about the dam’s unique qualities.

“If you look at it, it’s just a small dam, 18 feet high and 109 feet long, and the maximum depth of water is 6.1 feet,” he said. “But it stores three-quarters of a million acre feet of water for delivery downstream.”

Keys also commented on the partnership between the reclamation bureau, Tahoe City Public Utility District and California State Parks. A lakeside bike trail initiated by the utility district and state parks with a pedestrian bridge alongside the dam and the William B. Layton Park was incorporated into the restoration project.

“State parks and the PUD got a facility they can be proud of,” Keys said. “We are proud to be stewards of the Lake Tahoe Dam.”

Reid discussed the Truckee River Operating Agreement, which could resolve the long-standing water war over the Truckee River when it’s completed. Many members of the audience were representatives of organizations that are party to the agreement, such as the Truckee Carson Irrigation District, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and Truckee Meadows Water Authority, which owns the dam.

The operating agreement is considered the centerpiece of the Truckee River negotiated settlement, a federal law that Reid helped author in 1991.

Earlier at Sand Harbor, Reid announced legislation to ensure that the federal government meets its funding commitment, $30 million a year for 10 years, to protect Tahoe. California has provided more than 80 percent of its $275 million commitment, and Nevada has followed through with its $82 million pledge.