Lake Tahoe water level causing boat ramps to close early

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. ( & KRNV) -- With summer officially almost here, you may expect to see many boats out on Lake Tahoe. But with the low snow pack this winter, some boat ramps may be closing early this year.

Experts say this will be one of the shortest boating seasons our region has seen in years.The low water level in Lake Tahoe is keeping some boats out of the water, and with summer time just heating up, it could get worse. "We have been watching the lake go down further and further, this has been the worse year because it was just a poor winter," said Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park supervisor Jay Howard.

Howard said the Sand Harbor boat ramp has not been as busy this year compared to previous years. Because of the low water level, the department is advising people to not launch boats over 17 feet. "But at this point it's just an advisory, we're just cautioning people to try and get them to go elsewhere. Like Cave Rock for example, it's a much deeper launch there."

Still, Howard said that may soon become mandatory. He also said one issue they are seeing is boat owners have to go beyond launch lanes. "We've seen some damage to boats because sometimes, they bounce really hard and that can result in damage. And it also damages the edge of the ramp, and the lake bottom itself, so from an environmental standpoint, we're trying to protect the lake bottom and the edge as well."

The low levels are why experts, such as Jay Neely of Crystal Bay Marine, recommended owners use their boats now. "The big rush of July 4th that's coming up and you know we'll get through that. We'll just have to see where it goes from there, if they're letting water out, once it hits the natural rim, it's going to get pretty tight around here."

Howard anticipates the Sand Harbor boat ramp will be completely closed the first week of July, which will be one of the shortest boating seasons for the park. "We're going to play it by ear, and we want to launch boats as long as we can, just so we are maintaining that service to the public. But like I said, we won't have any choice, when there's not enough water, there's not enough water."

The Sand Harbor boat ramp may not be the only one that has to close early this year. According to Tahoe Resource Conservation District officials, other boat ramps around Lake Tahoe may also have to close early because of the low water level.