Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Downpours of the last 48 hours brought Lake Earl to the nine-foot level, making county officials feel justified in letting the water drain for a second time this season.

This will be the second breach of the year, which is unusual, but the heavy tides sealed it up quickly, after the first one, said Ernie Perry, director of the countys community development department.

And we feel the lake will seal and fill back up again quickly, after the second breach, he added.

Perry said Monday is the target date for the breach, but if weather and tides are rough it wont be safe enough for a manned tractor to trench the sandbar between the lake and the ocean.

Federal and state permits, allowing the county to breach the lake at the eight-foot level, have a Feb. 15 deadline.

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors declared the lake level an emergency on Tuesday when the level was 8.75 feet.

But the vote was split 3 to 2. Supervisors Jack Reese and Martha McClure voted no after concern over the fate of the Aleutian Goose Festival was expressed by audience members.

Its not attractive to go out and look at a big mudhole. Id like you to remember that you represent all of us and not just the 30 or 40 people that get a little water on their land, said kayaker and birder Jim Barrett.

And area resident John Mertes echoed the sentiment.

Draining the lake will benefit a few and hurt a great deal of us, he said.

The Aleutian Goose Festival runs March 22-25 and centers on bird-watching activities near the lake.

Perry said breaching the lake now should not adversely affect the tourist event.

The lake was breached at this time last year and the goose festival still went on. Plus, the ground is saturated now, so any rains we get will help to fill it back up, he said.

McClure usually votes against breaching the lake, but Reese traditionally votes yes when lake depths reach the 10-foot level and flood county roads.

Ive always voted to drain the lake, but this time I dont see the emergency. Its not 9 or 10 feet, Reese said.