County supervisors were poised to approve a request today to breach the sandbar separating lakes Earl and Tolowa from the ocean, but instead the lakes breached themselves, a county official said Monday.

Lakes Earl and Tolowa breached naturally on Saturday, according to Road Superintendent Jeff Daniels. The County Roads and Engineering Divisions had planned to ask the Board of Supervisors for approval to breach the lakes with help from the California Department of Fish and Game on Wednesday, Daniels said.

"But now we don't have to," he said. "It kind of worked out for everybody."

The California Coastal Commission in 2010 granted Del Norte County a five-year permit to breach the lakes to prevent flooding. The county can manually breach the lakes from Sept. 1 through Feb. 15 if the water level has reached at least 8 feet.

If the lagoon's water is 5 feet or above on Feb. 15, the county can breach a second time to prevent springtime flooding.

Daniels said the last time county staff checked, the lakes' water level was at 9.7 feet. Once the level gets close to 10 feet, many of the roads in the Pacific Shores Subdivision wind up underwater, Daniels said, making it difficult for vehicles to access the lake.

If the lakes had been manually breached, county staff would have used a bulldozer to excavate a trough in the sandbar between Lake Tolowa and the ocean. The bulldozer would have pushed aside about 600 cubic yards.

Once the lakes have been breached, the sandbar generally fills itself back in, Daniels said.

According to the Coastal Commission, Lake Earl is home to more than 250 species of birds including the endangered California brown pelican and the willow flycatcher.

Forty species of mammal are known to dwell in the lagoon environment along with endangered fish like the tidewater goby. Lake Earl is the largest coastal lagoon in the state.

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Flynn Administrative Center at 981 H St. Agendas can be found at Meetings are streamed live at

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