Water Wanted: Royal Gorge seeks water from various sources | SierraSun.com

Water Wanted: Royal Gorge seeks water from various sources

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunSnow and ice on Serene Lakes on Donner Summit made it possible for a snowman to be built. Royal Gorge presented ideas to supply water to its proposed development at Friday's meeting of the Sierra Lakes County Water District.

Donner Summit’s water district and Royal Gorge developers on Friday waded into the complex water supply issues that face the proposed development.

In front of a packed audience, the Sierra Lakes County Water District and Royal Gorge outlined their respective studies on water supply and demand issues facing the summit.

“I understand your concerns,” said Ben Swann, a hydrologist consulting for Royal Gorge. “Lack of water is probably the most critical issue in California today.”

But the water district has rights to more water than it can currently store, Swann said, so the potential exists for additional water supply.

“Even in dry years the Serene Lakes watershed produces significant quantities of water,” Swann said.

For Royal Gorge, that would mean coming up with new ways to retain the water, he said.

One way to capture more water for the summer months would be to raise the dam level on Serene Lakes by 6 inches, a level he said is reached during the height of spring runoff anyway.

But Joe Gray, a board member of the Serene Lakes Property Owners Association, said at Friday’s meeting that surge happens over three to four days, inundating some properties along the lake, but not for months as would happen with a raised dam.

“All the vegetation along the shoreline would eventually die, along with the two islands,” Gray said.

Project Manager Mike Livak of Royal Gorge said the increased use would mean the reservoir’s level wouldn’t stay high as long, but agreed the issue needs further research.

The proponents are exploring the possible construction of two new reservoirs to capture some of the surplus water not retained in Serene Lakes, one called East Lake and the other the Serena Creek Reservoir, Swann said.

Lowering the level of Serene Lakes in the off-season, taking advantage of existing district wells, and using three new Royal Gorge wells are also possible sources of water for the proposed development, he said.

From the demand side, Swann said they estimated usage based on two occupancy levels ” 46 percent and 75 percent occupancy ” taking their cue from a similar Placer County development, Northstar.

“We think 75 percent is a conservative upper boundary for future demand,” Swann said.

But Wade Freedle, president of the Sierra Lakes County Water District board, said the board’s opinion is that the development’s water demand should be considered at 100 percent occupancy, a sentiment echoed by members of the audience.

The discussion at the water district will be followed by further talks and a decision once the Royal Gorge owners submit a formal application.

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