Leisure companies depending on the Colorado forged a hopeful eye on future

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Steve Marcus

Chad Taylor, director of sales and marketing for Lake Mead Mohave Adventures, poses with houseboats in the Callville Bay Marina in Lake Mead National Recreation Area on Tuesday, September 14, 2021.

Looking at the Callville Bay Marina Lounge from a houseboat on Lake Mead, Chad Taylor thought about a very different time.

In the mid-1990s, the building stood directly on the water. Today it is nearly a quarter of a mile from the coast.

Taylor, whose father was the general manager of the marina at the time, works as the director of marketing for Lake Mead Mohave Adventures, a boat rental and recreational company that arranges short breaks for clients on Lake Mead and Lake Mohave.

Lake Mead, fed by the Colorado River, has the lowest water level since the reservoir was built in the 1930s. The water level is 1,067 feet above sea level, according to the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, which is about 35% of capacity.

A visit to the Hoover Dam reveals a distinct “bathtub ring” of mineral deposits, showing where the lake level once reached.

In Callville Bay, the receding water recently revealed a small boat that once sank beneath the lake’s surface and has now reappeared.

“Who knows what story is in this boat,” said Taylor. “When the water level drops, there are new things and places to discover.”

After Taylor inspected the boat, Taylor climbed onto a dock that was being dismantled bit by bit like a Lego set so it could be moved further into the lake. It’s an on-going process for a crew of multiple dock workers, some of whom have been contracted to Lake Mead Mohave Adventures solely to play dock dominos.

Part of the process of uprooting the dock pieces is to use a crane to lift various anchors on a boat. The anchors weigh thousands of pounds.

“Each of the screws in these dock pieces were hand-inserted,” said Taylor. “I always did that as a child, all day, every day, for months.”

The process of moving docks can get costly for the company, but business has also grown since the pandemic began, Taylor said.

“Our sales have increased,” he said. “When COVID hit, people decided to go outside more. Groups started coming and they didn’t really stop coming. Due to the demand, we extended our summer season last year into November. “

This year was a little different because many families have brought their children back to traditional personal school, Taylor said. That means less time for outdoor adventures.

“We are doing fantastic from a business perspective,” said Taylor. “We just have to work tirelessly to ensure access every day. What the water levels do is a daily thought for us. We’ll be working with a full-time crew for the next six or eight months to relocate this dock. “

Lake Mead Mohave Adventures isn’t the only company grappling with lower water levels on Lake Mead and along the Colorado River.

In Laughlin, Bre Chiodini, owner of Laughlin River Tours and another company that rents jet skis, said she had to cut down some operations because of the river level, which is controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation.

“When the water stops flowing, everything down here stops moving,” said Chiodini. “We are completely dependent on the Colorado River. Most of our stores, hotels, resorts, casinos, and other businesses depend on the river. It’s scary to go from drought contingency plans to drought containment plans, as we are doing now. “

Chiodini runs her business with her husband Trevor Chiodini. They keep an eye on river levels, which can change daily, but they also invest in their businesses.

They recently paid more than $ 2 million for a new tour boat to replace their 112-person dinner cruise boat called the Celebration. But their success depends on a thriving Colorado.

“It could get to the point where we can no longer run our business,” said Bre Chiodini. “It’s scary to think about the future of the river. We should receive our new boat next year. “

Next year, the Bureau of Reclamation will begin limiting water supplies to Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico. This is mainly due to the fact that a good part of the western United States is in a drought of more than 20 years.

The subject of who gets how much water is delicate and complicated, and that won’t change anytime soon.

The Colorado River Basin, an area covering nearly 250,000 square miles, provides drinking water and irrigation for millions of people in seven western states including Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.

According to the agency, the agricultural hectares fed by Colorado’s waters are responsible for about 60% of the country’s vegetable supply and about 25% of the country’s fresh fruit and nut crops.

But the restrictions will limit the amount of water that can be used to conserve the Colorado.

“The reduced shipments next year are expected to bring Lake Mead by about 3 feet of water,” said Patti Aaron, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation. “90% or more of the snowpack in the Rocky Mountains serves as the main source of water for the Colorado River. Every drop of rain we get is great, but it doesn’t make a big difference. “

With the unpredictability of how the ongoing effects of climate change will affect the Colorado River’s water sources, it is now to be seen whether the office will put further restrictions in place over the next several years.

“We are now in the 22nd year of the drought and we don’t know when it will end,” said Aaron. “Of course we hope that this will come to an end. We hope to have a wetter period soon. “

At Desert Adventures, a Boulder City-based company that offers outdoor recreational packages such as kayaking tours on Lake Mead, Dominique Ianni said business has been stable lately, although some out-of-town groups have been around in recent months due to concerns COVID- 19.

Others were more likely to be outdoors during the pandemic, which at least partially offset these types of cancellations.

“We got a lot of people who wouldn’t normally be on the water,” said Ianni. “In times of the pandemic it was very busy. Business went up and down. However, the water level on the lake is very noticeable. It was very noticeable just a few months ago. “

Back at Callville Bay, Taylor, a self-proclaimed optimist, said he believed Mother Nature would allow Lake Mead to reverse course at some point.

However, if the lake continues to retreat, Taylor said, Lake Mead Mohave Adventures will simply keep moving those parts of the dock.

“There are people who are making plans on many different levels now,” said Taylor. “Everyone is busy with the case now. At this point in time, we just don’t know what tomorrow will bring. If you go to the middle of the lake there is still a lot of water out there. We rent boats daily. As soon as you come back, you go straight out again. “

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