By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

Saturday is Del Norte County's last chance to drain the Lake Earl lagoon until next winter.

The county Board of Supervisors considered whether to take that opportunity yesterday, but voted 3-1 not to unless the lake rises to eight feet or more above sea level by Saturday. Supervisor Jack Reese was absent.

It is believed by county officials that the California Coastal Commission will not allow a permit to breach the lake until it is at least eight feet deep.

andquot;I think it is a moot subject because I don't believe it's going to rain enough to raise the water before Saturday,andquot;said Supervisor Sarah Sampels. Her point was echoed by Supervisor David Finigan.

Finigan, as chair of the board, said though he was voting against the breach now; he reserved the right to call a special meeting if the level rises to eight feet.

The lagoon currently has 7.49 feet of water. At the eight-foot level, area landowners say their fields and roads get swamped. Lake Earl has already been drained once this winter when it rose above 10 feet in late December.

Supervisor Chuck Blackburn offered the only yes vote to breach the lagoon, saying if it's not breached now the spring rains of March and April will raise Lake Earl waters over flood stage and the county will have lost its authority to drain it.

andquot;It's ludicrous to me that these people continue to get flooded and that the state puts us in this position,andquot; Blackburn said.

To trench the sandbar separating the lagoon from the ocean, the county must get permission from the California Coastal Commission, the California Department of Fish and Game, the State Lands Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Fish and Game owns nearly all of the land wetted by the lagoon waters up to the 10-foot level. That agency has prepared an environmental impact study and a management plan for the lagoon which has not been released to the public.

The documents are expected to recommend a level at which the lagoon should be allowed to rise to before breaching.

Those documents were promised to the public seven months ago, but were not released. They are now expected to be released this week.