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Future Flooding In Tahoe? UC Davis Study Says Climate Change Makes An Impact On The Lake

TRUCKEE (CBS13) — Scientists with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center say climate change may leave lasting impacts on Lake Tahoe, and it may not take decades to see it happen.

Lake Tahoe is known for its serene skies and lovely lake views. The draw is felt by tourists and locals, alike.

"It's just a spectacular place," said Jim Lecron, who has had a home in the area for 30 years. He says every year is different.

"Sometimes the lake is really low," Lecron said. "There's a drought, sometimes you can get tons of snow. Every few years, one or the other."

In recent years, the lake has seen low levels - to the point where some boat launches were impacted. But Dr. Geoffrey Schladow, director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, said that could be changing due to the climate. Their most recent report looks at the chances of flooding in the area, among other things. Scientists say precipitation percentages could be changing in Tahoe - and the lake, which typically sees more snow, may see more rain due to intense heat.

"We have been having some warmer winters," agreed Ashley Lecron.

The study says rainfall would fill streams fast with snowpack melting, and levels could rise by as much as 10 inches a day.

"Meaning we're going to get unprecedented flow rates in the streams," said Dr. Schladow.

He said there's no time frame on when this could possibly happen, too.

"As time goes by the likelihood of that increases—it could happen six months from now. That's the frightening part," he said.

Areas like Truckee could be one of the towns impacted. Lecron said that would be surprising.

"Flooding in Truckee," he said. "That would be biblical."

Some of the most challenging parts to this risk of flooding will be faced by water managers, left with deciding how much water should be released to combat flooding. If too much is let out, it could create more drought conditions for the future.

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