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Signal Booster: ‘Who Owns Lake Tahoe’s Water?’ Tahoe Weekly Series Offers Answers

Historian Mark McLaughlin describes how the stunning blue lake’s water is accessed, doled out, and in some cases legally swiped.

PUBLISHED OCTOBER 1, 2021
Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of wireless radio—an old-school form of signal boosting.
Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of wireless radio—an old-school form of signal boosting. National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress)   Public Domain

Mark McLaughlin’s fascinating six-part series in the Tahoe Weekly describes how the stunning blue lake’s water is accessed, doled out, and in some cases legally swiped. The original Tahoe inhabitants lived with seasonal and yearly fluctuations, something developers didn’t take into consideration. Today, Tahoe’s water flows east, not west; a quartet of dams irrigate northern Nevada. “It may seem counterintuitive that Nevada could claim water resources from across the state line in California,” McLaughlin writes. Yet this has been the case ever since Gilded Age senator Robert Francis G. Newlands saw Lake Tahoe as “the cheapest reservoir space in the west” and teamed with businessman Robert Fulton to bring the water to Nevada, America’s most arid state.  Over the years, locals threatened the use of shotguns and dynamite to stop the damming. Meanwhile the Paiutes of the Pyramid Lake region fought for decades to protect their fisheries. McLaughlin describes how the struggle continues, as the bumper-stickers put it, to Keep Tahoe Blue.

Read the whole series on TheTahoeWeekly.com.

Part 1: “Who owns the water from Lake Tahoe & Truckee River? Part I

Part 2: “Plan hatched to divert Lake Tahoe’s water to Nevada

Part 3: “Fulton-Newlands Project sought to control Tahoe, Truckee’s water

Part 4: “Reclamation Act transforms water rights for Lake Tahoe, Truckee River

Part 5: “Truckee River dams, reservoirs created to capture Tahoe’s water

Part 6: “Paiute tribe wins water rights victory; Truckee’s water overstretched

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