Emergency: County mulls draining lake

December 20, 2001 11:00 pm

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Meeting in a special session today at 1:30 p.m., the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors will consider declaring an emergency caused by the rising waters of Lake Earl.

Its just part of the process we need to do to get all the permits we need to breach the lake, said Supervisor Clyde Eller.

Technically, the supervisors also rule as the Del Norte County Flood Control District Board of Directors. It is that board which considers issues surrounding flooding and taking actions to prevent or mitigate flood conditions.

A resolution declaring the imminent existence of an emergency and directing staff to take action necessary to alleviate the flooding ... by breaching the intervening sandbar between the lakes and the Pacific Ocean, is what the board will be deciding on.

Lake Earl is close to its 10-foot mark, a level at which nearby roads are nearly impassable. Landowners near there have saturated fields and occasional ponds caused by the high lake.

As a naturally fluctuating lagoon, separated from the ocean only by a narrow sandbar, the lake rises and falls each year as winter rains swell streams.

Last year the lake reached about 9.5 feet before an emergency permit was secured to break the sandbar.

That permit didnt come until last Jan. 30. A month before that the supervisors considered breaching the bar without a permit, but the impulse was quelled by their attorneys advice not to.

The three-year interim permit to breach the sandbar while California Fish and Game develops a management plan for the area, is not due to come through until next week at the earliest.

According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency which issues the permit, the process was held up this year due a four-inch stack of comments urging against the permit which would allow for breaching at the eight-foot level.

The documents were submitted by the attorneys of the Friends of the Lake and the Pacific Shores California Water District which would rather breach the lake at the four- or five-foot level.

They have applied for a separate permit to do that. And the county has signed onto both applications.

Eller said the board wont take action themselves this year without a permit.

Todays special meeting discussing these issues is at 1:30 p.m. in the Flynn Center at 981 H Street.