Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

With the second breaching of Lake Earl pending this season, some residents are concerned a muddy lagoon will hurt recreation and tourist activities.

My wife and I just spent about $140 on tickets to the Aleutian Goose Festival. To drain water out of the lake right now while people are here to spend money is ridiculous, said Crescent City resident Jim Barrett.

Lake Earl is scientifically considered a coastal lagoon that naturally fluctuates with seasonal tides and rains.

It is separated from the ocean by a sandbar which breaches, drains the lake, and re-forms.

Typically, its waters rise at this time of year, spilling over onto nearby cow pastures and roads.

The lake was breached in late December after reaching a depth of more than 10 feet.

Its now back up to eight feet, a level Barrett and lake enthusiast Joe Gartland say is perfect for canoes and kayaks to tour the waters for wildlife sightings.

Its about 60 miles around when the lake is at 10 feet mean-sea-level, if they drain it it will down to about 15 miles around and surrounded by mud, said Gartland.

Shallow water and muddy access will cancel the canoe and kayaking tours scheduled for the upcoming Goose festival unless the sandbar is able to re-form and rains fill the lake before the March 22 start day.

But Gartland said it usually takes six weeks for ocean waves to close the sandbar.

It drains down to almost one foot, he added.

Lake waters are measured by comparing how high the waters rise to mean-sea-level. So if the lake is eight feet mean-sea-level, that means its eight feet above sea level.

Thats why the waters drain down into the ocean when the sandbar is trenched open.

Barrett said low water level makes the lagoon area less attractive and less accessible, costing the county coffers much-needed sales tax revenue.

Nearby property owners say high levels flood their land, rendering it useless and lowering its value.

They are so concerned with property taxes, but there is much more to be gained from sales tax, he said.

An outdoor enthusiast, Barrett said nature and recreation are the main reasons people move to and visit the area.

He and his wife and friends have purchased kayaks, helmets, life preservers, tents, rain gear and other items locally to avail themselves of recreational opportunities here.

Preserving the opportunities around the Lake Earl Wildlife Area, Barrett said, could better create a market for more outdoor shops and a greater tax base for the county.

Our future here is our resources and Lake Earl can be one of them, unless we continue to drain it, he said.

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors have acquired a breach permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to breach the lake at the eight-foot level before Feb. 15.

Community Development Director Ernie Perry said the county is still awaiting a permit from Fish and Game. Both are needed before the county can legally drain the lake.

Perry said the supervisors will likely take action Tuesday at their regular meeting to expedite the Fish and Game permit.

Then the county will likely breach the lake within the next two weeks.

Gartland said the county may not have any other choice.

I dont see how they can avoid it, because its already over eight and a-half feet. The Goose festival will just have to lose out, he said.