By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

The latest effort by some Del Norte County property-rights activists to gain control over Lake Earl hit a major roadblock this week.

The state Department of Fish and Game denied permission to Pacific Shores California Water District and the East Side Property Owners to breach Lake Earl when its waters reach five feet above mean sea level.

andquot;At this time, the department is not willing to grant access because we believe that your proposed project will adversely affect fish and wildlife resources protected by the wildlife area,andquot; reads a letter from Fish and Game.

Fish and Game ruled the application to breach the lake was incomplete and returned the check and application package. In addition, the department said it would require an environmental impact report before granting a permit to breach the lake at five feet.

Despite the denial, Helen Ferguson, spokesperson for East Side Property Owners, said she is not discouraged and said she does not feel it means a delay in winning the permit.

andquot;No action was taken. It's all a matter of opinion. They just had some questions,andquot; Ferguson said. She added the group's attorneys would review the application's status.

In addition to the Department of Fish and Game, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Lands Commission must also must agree to allow a breach permit to be granted. If Fish and Game withholds its approval, it appears likely that will cause other agencies to withhold support.

andquot;If I find out they can't get a permit from the other agencies, I'm going to quit working on it,andquot; said Army Corps biologist Kelly Reid.

Currently, Fish is Game is readying an environmental impact report and a management plan for the Lake Earl Wildlife Area that should be released to the public next week.

The plan is expected to outline which water level is best for the wildlife and people living near the wetland.

State and local officials have said they hope the management plan will put an end to arguments about the lake level, which have raged for decades.

Property owners around the lake favor a lower level so fewer acres are flooded each year.

Environmentalists favor a higher lake level, which they say preserves more wetland habitat.