By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Lake Earl was breached Saturday morning, one day after Del Norte County received the necessary permits.

Del Norte County Supervisor Clyde Eller, who represents the Lake Earl area, said the county roads department used a D8-Caterpillar to break through a sandbar and allow the lake to drain into the ocean.

The first permit from the Army Corps of Engineers was received Friday, which prompted permits from the Department of Fish and Game and the California Coastal Commission to be issued.

The one-time breaching permit is a short-term fix for what Eller said demands a more comprehensive solution.

Weve been seeking a 2-year permit but the National Marine Fisheries Service objected to it, Eller said yesterday. The county will be in continued contact with the Corps of Engineers to see what the status is over the 2-year permit.

Eller said there currently is no set lake level when breaching is sought by the county. Last year the county declared an emergency when the lake approached 10 feet. By Saturday, the level was approximately 10.2 feet.

Arguments from adjacent landowners and ranchers who tend to want low lake levels, and environmentalists and state agencies, have ranged from five- to eight-foot levels.

The lake, which is classified as a wetland lagoon, is known to breach on its own when left to nature, but this is not a common-enough occurrence for nearby landowners when their properties begin to flood.

I have never known, in the last 20 years, that the lake breached naturally unless it was previously breached by man earlier in the year, Eller said. Im sure it has breached naturally at some time in history that I am not aware of.