Lake Tahoe expected to fill up with largest physical rise in recorded history

[Amy Graff, SFGate]

The depressing scene of boat docks sitting high and dry on wide beaches around Lake Tahoe will likely be a fleeting memory this summer.
Winter's unrelenting storms built up a substantial Sierra snowpack and are expected to fill the lake for the first time in 11 years.

Many low-lying areas that were exposed when the lake level was declining during the drought will be inundated with water. The docks will be bobbing in crystal blue waters once again.

Straddling the California–Nevada border, Tahoe is the sixth largest lake in the United States, an outdoor playground for people around the world, and the main water source for the Reno-Sparks, Nevada, area. The renowned ecological wonder is fed by 63 tributaries that drain 505 square miles known as the Lake Tahoe Watershed. With a vast surface area of 191 square miles, Tahoe requires an immense amount of water to fill, especially because roughly 100 billion gallons of water evaporates annually.

Lake Tahoe's natural rim is at 6,223 feet above sea level. The lake can store an additional 6.1 feet in its reservoir and climbs up to 6,229 feet at full capacity, its legal maximum limit. The only outlet, a dam at Tahoe City, regulates the upper 6.1 feet above the low water mark, and this winter water is being released into the Truckee River as billions of gallons flow into the lake.

Tahoe's water level reached 6,226.84 feet on Wednesday, and the lake needs some 88 billion gallons of water to jump up the 2.26 feet required to be completely full. That's the equivalent of filling more than 133,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

"We feel really good right now," said U.S. District Court Water Master Chad Blanchard. "We're releasing 500 cubic feet of water per second...

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