Managing the Truckee River
Since mid-June we have been seeing growing visitation throughout the Lake Tahoe region. This is not unexpected, we anticipated California and Nevada residents would remain closer to home to vacation this year. Even with that expectation, the numbers have exceeded what most of us have ever seen.
In particular, the Truckee River’s heavy use has been the subject of many emails, calls, and social media posts. For the last month I have been working with land managers and law enforcement at the county, state and federal levels to discuss the challenges and opportunities of regulations and enforcement.
Placer County is responsible for issuing permits to the two commercial raft companies that operate on the river. The conditions of those permits limit the number of commercial rafts allowed on the river and require the companies to operate shuttle buses, provide garbage clean-up and have restroom facilities available to all river users. This year both companies have voluntarily limited their operations to 50% of what their permits allow in order to ensure the ability to provide safe physical distancing for their customers. Partially due to these limitations there has been an explosion of public users crowding the river.
Placer County cannot limit the public’s use of the Truckee River. In California, members of the public have rights to access and use the waters for fishing, recreation, and navigation. People can swim, fish, and bring their own float devices and enter the river at numerous points along Highway 89. Some of these entry points are on US Forest Service (USFS) land and others are within the Caltrans right-of-way or on private land. While there is a lot of use on the river, the large gatherings at several locations are the primary health concern. The “party scene” on the river is not new this year, it has regularly occurred at times in the past. In 2008 environmental and safety concerns prompted Placer County to secure urgency legislation from the State that allowed for the adoption of an ordinance to ban alcohol on the river during “holiday times”. With the added risk of COVID-19 we are again faced with the need to take action.
We are increasing efforts to educate the public of the importance of social distancing by posting more signs reminding people not to gather in groups.
As a result of the concerns for public health, safety and environmental impacts, I have asked Placer County Board of Supervisors to consider an alcohol ban through October 15 and our County Counsel’s Office has drafted the ordinance to mirror the efforts for the July 4th holiday period. The discussion will be held during the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on Monday, July 27 and if the ban is adopted by a 4/5 vote of the Board it will go into effect immediately. By banning alcohol, we hope to discourage the large group gatherings that pose a risk to public health and safety. To watch that meeting electronically and offer comment, go to www.placer.ca.gov.
In addition to the proposed alcohol ban, we are working with Tahoe City Public Utility District (TCPUD), USFS and the rafting companies to increase education efforts by posting more signs reminding the public not to gather in groups. Through a combination of education and enforcement we hope to reduce the behaviors that we have seen in recent weeks.
Tahoe Items at Board of Supervisors Meeting
The Board of Supervisors meet on Monday, July 27 and Tuesday, July 28. The Board Chambers continues to be closed to public attendance, but the public may participate online or via telephone.
Monday’s meeting begins at 1pm and is a Special Meeting focused largely on Tahoe-area items and updates, including an update on the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association’s response to COVID-19, a proposed Workforce Housing Preservation Program and a proposed amendment to the North Lake Tahoe Economic Development Incentive Program. At Monday’s meeting the Board of Supervisors will also consider the Urgency Ordinance to ban alcohol on portions of the Truckee River from July 27 to October 15.
On Tuesday the Board’s regular meeting begins at 9am and we have a full agenda. Tahoe-area items include consideration of a third-party appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of a Conditional Use Permit Modification for a rafting license. The consent agenda also includes a budget increase for the Dollar Creek Housing Project Planning for consultant services surrounding the development of the Nahas property and a request for temporary borrowing of treasury funds for the North Tahoe Fire Protection District. On Tuesday the Board will also consider allocation of CARES Act funds and will receive an update from Placer County Public Health Officer, Dr. Aimee Sisson on COVID-19. I encourage you to take a look at the agenda, which also provides information on how to participate in the meeting.
Please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or need any assistance with County issues or concerns.
-Cindy Gustafson, District 5 Supervisor
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175 Fulweiler Ave., Auburn, CA 95603
Supervisor Cindy Gustafson: cindygustafson@
District Director Lindsay Romack: email@example.com
District Aide Kelly McCaughna: kmccaughna@placer.
Temporary Assistant District Aide Judy Friedman: firstname.lastname@example.org.