DESPITE FEARS, SUPERVISORS GO FORWARD WITH PLANS TO BREACH LAKE EARL'S DIKE

December 21, 2000 11:00 pm

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

In an emergency meeting yesterday, Del Norte County officials considered taking action on their own to stop Lake Earl flooding.

The county Board of Supervisors met in emergency session to discuss whether or not to breach the sandbar separating the ocean from the lake under their authority as a Flood Control District.

After legal advice cautioned against that action, the supervisors voted three to one to declare an emergency and instead seek permits necessary to perform the breach.

Lake levels have risen from 8.7 feet to 9.3 feet over the weekend, according to Ernie Perry, Community Planner. The sharp rise caused panic among land owners there and the county supervisors who represent them.

The water is already up to the road as it is. Ive had cows die, calves die and emus die. I used to not be able to see the lake from my place. Now, the lake is my place, said Daniel Honeywell, a resident near Lake Earl.

Because the Board of Supervisors also operates as the Flood Control District, Supervisor David Finigan said he wanted to use that authority to skip the permit process and take action to breach the lake now.

We better fix this once and for all. This is ridiculous. The state gave the Flood Control District authority, lets use it, Finigan said.

Supervisor Jack Reese said he agreed with Finigan.

I interpret it that this board has the responsibility to protect the lives, property and safety of our citizens from floods, Reese said.

But county attorney Bob Black cautioned the board that federal and state authorities trump those of the county.

The FDC does give you that standing. I just dont think that cuts through the permitting process and the coastal act, Black said.

Because the State of California owns Lake Earl, the county is not allowed to breach it without the permission of the Army Corps of Engineers, National Marine Fisheries Services and about 16 other government agencies.

Heeding Blacks advice, the board directed its staff to pursue all the necessary permits as quickly as possible under the declaration of an emergency.