The lingering drought that has made for dismal skiing in the Sierra Nevada is going to take a toll on Lake Tahoe boaters this summer, as several of the typically busiest boat-launching ramps will remain closed through the entire season because of low water levels.
One of the mountain lake’s most popular launches on Tahoe’s northeast shore at Sand Harbor, just south of Incline Village, is one of the ramps that is expected to remain shut for the season. The summer boating season typically opens May 1. But with Sierra snowpack at its lowest level in a century after four consecutive mild winters, that won't happen this year.
"There is not enough water to launch at this point and I see nothing but the lake going down," Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park supervisor Jay Howard told the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
"Until we get something to get the lake to come up, [the ramp] will be closed until further notice," he told the paper.
Low-water years have forced the state parks to close the launches early before, but Howard said this is the first time since the early 1990s that Sand Harbor will miss the entire boating season.
The Lake Tahoe Basin's snowpack ended the traditional season on April 1 with only 3 percent of normal for the date. Lake Tahoe has been below its natural rim since October, cutting off all flow into the Truckee River, and that is not expected to change before the end of the year.
The other Lake Tahoe boat launch operated by Nevada State Parks at Cave Rock on the east shore should be open throughout the summer boating season, although it will be limited from two lanes to one at some point, Howard said.
Other boat ramps expected to remain closed all year include Coon Street on the north shore at Kings Beach, California and on the south shore at El Dorado Beach and Tahoe Vista, California.
El Dorado Beach's launch was only open for about a month before it closed last year, South Lake Tahoe public information officer Tracy Franklin said.
"We don't anticipate, even if there is a windfall of snow, it would be high enough to open," she said. "The water is not even anywhere close to the ramp."
Two west shore ramps plan to be open, including Obexer's Boat Co. and the recently refurbished Lake Forest ramp at Tahoe City, California, although it's possible that the Lake Forest ramp could close at some point this summer.