Rising lake fuels worry over floods

March 25, 2003 12:00 am

By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

Recent rains are bringing rising flood waters from Lake Earl, and now the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors will consider breaching the lake to alleviate the flooding.

Estimated at 10.45 feet above sea level, the lagoon waters have covered lake-area roads and properties.

The current water level is widely considered 2.5 to 5.5 feet higher than is tolerable due to flooded roads and fields.

The supervisors will decide this morning at 11:30 a.m. whether to declare an emergency.

Such a declaration is necessary before the board can win permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Lands Commission, the state Department of Fish and Game and several other agencies with jurisdiction and ownership of the lagoon.

Before the emergency meeting was set, however, an emergency breach permit to drain the lagoon into the ocean was sent to the Army Corps, according to Corps ecologist Kelly Reid.

Reid said yesterday that despite the high level and impending rains for the rest of the week, he's not sure the Corps will grant the emergency permit now that the Feb.15 deadline has passed and the board voted not to breach on Feb. 14.

One reason for the Feb. 15 deadline was to give the lagoon a chance to fill again with spring rains before the summer drought.

Rising waters stranded one woman who lives at Pacific Shores in her trailer. A rescue over the weekend brought her to safety.

The woman, Lois Holzworth, called the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office at 6:30 a.m., Saturday worried that rising waters would impede her ability to leave.

"She said she had hip-replacement surgery and was scared. The lady was definitely in jeopardy, especially if anything medical happened," said Terry McNamara of the Del Norte County Search and Rescue Unit.

McNamara said he and his crew had to paddle a "swift water raft" almost a mile from where they parked their vehicle on Tell Boulevard.

Holzworth, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, was loaded into the raft, along with her dog, without incident.

"She had an overnight bag and a daypack ready to go by the time we got there," said McNamara.

She was paddled out to her car, which she had been parking on Tell just beyond the highest-water area covering the road.

With the water up to her doorway, Holzworth didn't want to try the walk to her car, according to McNamara, who added that the only dry route to her car was through nearby sand dunes – not navigable for Holzworth.

The high water was pushed up into the Pacific Shores Subdivision by the rain-swollen Lake Earl Lagoon.