Opinion » Commentaries

Pillaging Lake Nacimiento

We need a new agency and officials to manage this precious resource



Pillaging: To strip ruthlessly of all valuables by open violence, as in war; to plunder, despoil, abuse, and mistreat.

This describes what the Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) is about to unleash upon Lake Nacimiento, a very large residential environment and unsuspecting wildlife population's habitat (which straddle the border with San Luis Obispo County). Both depend on the lake and its watershed's natural water resources.

The MCWRA's controversial and ongoing mismanagement of Lake Nacimiento water releases is one bone of contention in the ongoing saga of the Save The Dragon movement. The movement is trying to save the rain and water runoff that come into the reservoir from the very organization that was put in place in 1957 to protect it. While Southern and Central Californians are trying to preserve water in reservoirs around the state, our "protection agency" is draining our precious resource as fast as it can, with absolutely no reflection on the welfare of the residents or the wildlife that inhabits the lake and surrounding forests. The MCWRA does not negotiate in good faith, with good conduct or with good intentions.

The agency's mission statement reads: "MCWRA manages, protects, stores, and conserves water resources in Monterey County for beneficial and environmental use while minimizing damage from flooding to create a safe and sustainable water supply for present and future generations."

We are the present generation!

We are just coming off of a seven-year drought. Last year, when the lake nearly filled, the agency released the water so fast that just about every dock in the lake was left high and dry. Residents requested to be told before the release so that they could protect their docks and property. But that request fell on deaf ears. When asked about it, the MCWRA responded by saying it had to prepare for next year's rains. Not really knowing whether it would actually rain, this is a blatant reminder of this agency's incompetence. It seems its power is in the hands of ignorant people.

Lake Nacimiento was built as a watershed for farmers in the Salinas River basin. Those farmers don't want or need the water in the winter when they get their own rain. They also want the water conserved for the spring and summer months when we reach three-digit temperatures and crops are suffering. And if there is another year of drought, we need the water to fight fires with. The sensible thing to do is conserve the water that's there for the times when it isn't and to regulate the dam properly for safety and flooding.

In the past, the Nacimiento dam couldn't hold at 100 percent capacity. That was fixed a few years ago. Now, unless that system has failed at the price of a few million dollars, the lake should be able to hold at least a 70 to 80 percent backlog of water. Why drain the lake to 20 and 30 percent by summer, leaving clubs and private property owners with no launching facilities and wildlife scrambling for a viable water source?

Californians are hard-working people with few water resources to be able to recreate in and around with friends and family. So the lakes that are around should be able to maintain a usable water level for the population choosing to visit the lake. Without launching facilities, there is no reason to come to the lake. Therefore, the county gets no revenue. The MCRWA has cut its own cash cow by closing launching facilities to the public. Why come to Lake Nacimiento if there is no water?

And then there is the wildlife mis-management by state and federal agencies tasked with protecting that which can't speak for itself. There are many rivers, creeks, and ponds, narrows and other entrances where water comes into the lake from the surrounding mountain ranges. When the lake maintains a steady level of water, it also maintains a sustainable water supply for all the wildlife in the area. When the lake is drained rapidly, these animals lose their resource overnight and have to seek out other water supplies. We are talking about deer, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, squirrels, quail, turkeys, birds of prey, and many others.

There are many wallets looking to be padded by the proposed tunnel pipeline slated to link up Lake Nacimiento and Lake San Antonio. Since water doesn't seem to stand a chance of remaining in either of the lakes and is only going to be released to its final destination, the ocean, why not put that tunnel money toward another holding reservoir—the "Jerrett Resevoir"—above Nacimiento to store water for the future? Gee, does that sound too much like an intelligent idea with a dash of common sense?

We need to bring in the big guns again! State officials. County officials have done all they can to tear this beautiful state treasure apart. Egos and idiocy have no place here and no right to take this lake down. These positions should be held by responsible, caring people. People who see the sacredness of this precious land and water and value the people and wildlife, who they pledged to help take care of, not kill off. The county isn't a county without people in it. So why are these people working for the county if they don't want to take care of the people in their county? This organization has too much power. It has shown reckless behavior and mismanagement, entering into possible bankruptcy and depleting the very resources that can make them money. Time's up! We need new officials, new supervisors, and a rebirth of Lake Nacimiento.

Let The Dragon Live!

Amy Lehmann is here to Save the Dragon. Send comments to the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write an opinion piece and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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