NEVADA – Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen announced on Monday that more than $30 million in disaster recovery funding is being allocated to aid the boat ramps at Lake Mead. The National Park Service will utilize approximately $32 million from the disaster relief funds to restore and maintain several boat launch ramps that were previously closed due to declining water levels at the nation’s largest reservoir.
During an event at Hemenway Harbor, Rosen expressed the significance of the lake, stating, “For the last year, I’ve been hearing directly from businesses and families that are right here about how important the lake is. This money that’s coming down is a direct result of those folks calling, sharing their worries and their hopes.”
The funding originates from a federal spending bill signed by President Joe Biden in December, which allocated $1.5 billion for recovery efforts at national park lands impacted by natural disasters. This includes severe flooding at Yellowstone National Park last summer, which caused significant damage to road sections.
In March, Rosen and three other western state senators requested that a portion of the disaster relief funds be allocated to the drought-stricken Lake Mead, where water levels have dropped by approximately 160 feet since 2000.
The new funding will be combined with other federal dollars to bolster the boat ramps. Around $17 million will come from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, while an additional $5 million will be sourced from the Great American Outdoors Act, according to acting Lake Mead National Recreation Area Superintendent Mike Gauthier.
A significant portion of the funds will be used for planning and design purposes to extend multiple ramps, enabling their operation at lower water levels. This includes the potential extension of Echo Bay’s ramp to an elevation of 1,000 feet and Temple Bar’s ramp to 1,050 feet, as stated by Gauthier.
Gauthier further emphasized, “That’s all going to go into keeping the access here and also helping us finish the planning and design. In the event that the water does decline, we need to be prepared for that.”
Maintaining the permanent boat launch ramps has been a challenge for the park service due to the substantial drop in water levels at Lake Mead over the past 23 years amidst historic drought conditions. Tens of millions of dollars have been invested in ramp extensions to keep up with the receding shoreline.
As the lake’s waters continue to recede, extending the ramps becomes more expensive and challenging due to topography and the possibility of further water level declines. Some marina operators have resorted to using adaptive ramps, enabling boaters to launch even during low water levels at the reservoir, which attracts millions of visitors annually.
Bruce Nelson, the director of operations at Lake Mead Marina in Hemenway Harbor, highlighted the negative impact of ramp closures on visitor numbers and business for marina operators.
Ensuring access for boaters is not only crucial for lake-based businesses but also for the surrounding gateway communities of Boulder City, Henderson, and others, according to Nelson. He stated, “We rely on this water for more than just drinking water. It’s also for recreation and fun for many, many generations.”
This year’s strong snowpack in the Rocky Mountains has brought some relief, with improved water level forecasts for Lake Mead. The melting snow from the mountains flowing into the Colorado River and its tributaries has already caused the lake’s levels to rise by over 10 feet since the beginning of the year. Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation suggest an additional 10-foot rise this summer.
The park service is currently evaluating various options for managing and maintaining launch ramps at Lake Mead in the event of further water level declines in the future. Ongoing reviews are underway.
Credits: Review Journal
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