My Turn: Mirage on Donner Summit
Lakes Serena and Dulzura, the centerpiece of the Serene Lakes community, are now the most endangered lakes in the Sierra Nevada. Royal Gorge, in order to supply water for its proposed jumbo-sized condominium development, has turned its very thirsty gaze towards our little alpine lakes.
This past week, Royal Gorge released an “Overview of Potential Water Supply Alternatives.” A brief sum up of this study could be, “raindrops aren’t falling on their heads.” A hydrogeologic study of Royal Gorge’s property revealed what we all know: That it’s very hard to wring water from rocks, although the report said instead that groundwater supply was “infeasible.” Royal Gorge estimates a demand of 235 acre-feet per year(AFY), rising to 265 AFY if snowmaking is implemented. Royal Gorge estimates this need based on a 46 percent occupancy rating.
However, it is anticipated that their occupancy rating will actually be much higher, especially with so many baby boomers retiring. It is considered both prudent, and more realistic, to gauge water needs based on 100 percent occupancy.
Royal Gorge plans to meet at least some of its water needs by dredging the perimeter of Serene Lakes at a precarious 4:1 slope. This will turn our natural alpine lakes, with naturally sloping shores, into unsightly bathtubs. Unless the lake edge is shored up, erosion will be an ongoing problem.
The greenbelt we have been so vigilant in protecting will be destroyed and lakeside property owners will suffer damage to their shoreline. In a normal snowfall year the end of the season sees around a 2-foot drop in water levels. Royal Gorge’s planned draw of more than 235 AFY will drop the water level by 4 feet or more. Getting into the swimming lake will be like jumping off a pier. Fortunately, no one will want to go in swimming because of all the ugly, smelly mud.
One wonders if the water left will even approach drinkability? And what will a drought year look like?
A careful look at the map provided by Royal Gorge exposes another problem. Lakes Serena and Dulzura are joined by a very narrow channel of water, a challenge to pass through in a sailboat when the wind is from the wrong direction.
The amount of water Royal Gorge will drain from the lake will cause this passage to dry up completely, so late in the season we’ll have two separate lakes. Sailing will be the last thing on our minds.
If good sense prevails and our lakes are protected from being drained away or turned into Serene Reservoir in order to support over 900 new housing units, then where will Royal Gorge LLC get the water? Are they looking at a mirage on Donner Summit?
Joseph Gray is a member of Serene Lakes Property Owners Association and a Soda Springs homeowner interested in preserving Serene Lakes.
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