Not So Serene Lakes: Donner Summit lakes, water use at center of new policies
A water district on Donner Summit passed new policy to control lake levels and prioritize water services despite concerns from Royal Gorge developers.The two items before the Sierra Lakes County Water District on Friday were a new ordinance that would prioritize water delivery to new customers and a new resolution limiting how far Serene Lakes could be drawn down. Despite arguments from Royal Gorge, late changes to the two items and early reservations from some board members, the district board unanimously approved the policies. The water service ordinance prioritizes delivery to existing, subdivided lots within Serene Lakes first; to existing subdivided lots outside of Serene Lakes, but still inside the district second; and to new customers outside of the district such as the proposed Royal Gorge project last, said Peter Kiel, legal counsel for the district.But Andrew Hitchings, legal counsel for Royal Gorge, took issue with prioritizing legal lots inside the Serene Lakes subdivision over legal lots elsewhere in the district.Were not suggesting that newly-subdivided lots have priority over existing lots, but we dont think there should be priority of some lots in the district over others, Hitchings said.Because the policy already existed for sewage service, and wasnt contested by Royal Gorge before, Wade Freedle, president of the district board, said it is only an extension of existing policy.Undeveloped lots within the subdivision have also previously paid standby fees in expectation of future service, and should have priority because of that, said district board member Martin Bern by phone during the Friday meeting. Bern could not attend the meeting, but commented by teleconference.The second item, a resolution to limit the draw-down of Serene Lakes to three feet, is meant to keep to the lakes from separating, Kiel said.Hitchings said that the decision constituted a change in policy for the district, referring to a past description of a four-foot draw-down, which would require a formal environmental review.Because the resolution also included recreational uses as a reason for maintaining lake levels, Hitchings also said the district was overstepping its bounds.We never drew the lakes down more than 2.8 feet, so saying three feet is not a change of how the lakes have been managed, Bern said. As for recreation, I interpret that as meaning we cant provide recreational services, and there could be legal consequences if the district ignored [recreation].Board member Ulrich Luscher expressed reservations about voting on the two items, having only received the draft ordinance and resolution the morning of the meeting.Royal Gorge Project Manager Mike Livak also questioned the need to vote on Friday, rather than taking more time to examine the issues.