More water wrangling | SierraSun.com

More water wrangling

Greyson HowardSierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra SunAn unidentified cross country skier skis on Serene Lakes Monday afternoon.
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How far Serene Lakes can be drawn down on Donner Summit may be a new point of contention as the Royal Gorge development draws closer to submitting formal plans.In January consultants for Royal Gorge developers Foster andamp; Syme presented potential ways to get water for the proposed 950-unit development. They suggested a combination of raising the dam on Serene Lakes, creating one or two new reservoirs, drilling new wells and drawing down the lakes in the fall as a way to increase water supply for the new development.But concerns over the affects of the lakes being drawn down too far, separating the two bodies of water, have led the Sierra Lakes County Water District to consider an ordinance that would limit just how far the lakes could drop.We want to change the draw-down minimum so the two lakes remain connected, said Martin Bern of the districts board of directors. If we cant keep them connected then we dont comply with the conditions of our permit.Previously the districts draw-down limit was 4 feet from the top of the dam, but a recent study shows that a maximum of 3 feet would be required to keep the lakes connected, Bern said.The new ordinance isnt in response to Royal Gorge, he said, and would simply be formalizing a policy to keep the lakes connected. If the two bodies separated, then only one lake would be drawn from, affecting recreation, water quality and the ecology of the lakes, said Bill Oudegeest, also on the board of directors.Joe Gray, a Donner Summit resident, said he supports the ordinance.About 50 percent of the lakes area is less than five feet deep, so if its drawn down too far we would end up with half the lake being ankle or knee deep, Gray said.But when the ordinance went to the water district board in February, Royal Gorge representatives raised questions that have the district reconsidering it in April.We think changing a policy and adopting a new formal policy should merit environmental review and act in a manner that allows analysis and public input, said Mike Livak, the Royal Gorge project manager.Livak said Royal Gorges plans to draw water from Serene Lakes wouldnt likely be in conflict with the new ordinance. But he said he was concerned by the boards action.Simply because their level would be within the levels weve identified doesnt mean it wouldnt affect us or other users, Livak said.As for the Royal Gorge development, Livak said he is still expecting to submit plans soon.Weve been making revisions I think people will be interested and pleased when they see our submittal, Livak said.

Another ordinance being considered by the Sierra Lakes County Water District would prioritize delivery of water as the Donner Summit area grows.Existing lots have been paying standby charges in some cases for decades that are already subdivided, Martin Bern said. Because they are subdivided and are paying, they should have rights before people who want to be annexed into the district or raw lands not yet subdivided.The ordinance would make sure the district doesnt overcommit to water delivery, making water first come, first served, he said.Some of those vacant subdivided lots have been waiting for another agency, the Donner Summit Public Utility District, to expand sewer capacity before building could commence.Royal Gorge developers also commented on this ordinance, Mike Livak said.There were some mistakes of facts and provisions that were not entirely compliant with state law, Livak said.This ordinance will also go back to the districts board of directors in April, Bern said.