My Turn: Royal Gorges developers reliance on paper water doesnt float
Recently my husband and I conducted an informal sounding of the Serene Lakes with a five-foot-long canoe paddle. This may sound imprecise, but we didn’t have a spare echosounder, and we wanted to get a hands-on look, from a real-time boat, at the actual contours of the lakes. You see, the map Royal Gorge LLC used to form their water supply assessments dates to 1962. A 45-year-old map, that doesn’t even show the lakes’ little islands, is not a good tool to answer questions concerning the volume of the lakes, and questions as to the need to dredge to increase storage capacity.As I understand, Royal Gorge LLC intends to conduct further studies.However, they are going to Placer County right now using this practically antique map. They are using a low-ball estimate of 46 percent occupancy for the expansive development they seek, and they are asking the county to base considerations on this faulty data.Sierra Lakes County Water District, on the other hand, as part of their current state water permitting process, will be required by the state of California to use a near 100 percent occupancy rating.Further, this February, the California Supreme Court, in Vineyard Area Citizens vs. City of Rancho Cordova, sent a major development case back to the lower courts because the city and developers had not used water figures reflecting total build out (analogous to 100 percent occupancy), and were possibly relying on paper water.Paper water, by the way, is water you might wish to have, but which might never materialize. Starting to sound familiar?Now, two middle-aged folks in a tippy canoe aren’t going to produce hard statistical evidence. What we did find though, was with a four-and-a-half-foot level drop, which is Royal Gorge LLC’s end-of-season estimate, the lakes would be ringed with 20 feet of mud in most places, and on the east side of the swimming lake, up to 100 feet of mud. All docks would be left high and dry, including the one in front of Royal Gorge LLC’s own Ice Lakes Lodge. I guess a dirty bathtub analogy isn’t so apt: Lakes Serena and Dulzura will look more like large, festering mud puddles. And if more water is drawn, which is likely, they may not look like much at all.Serene Lakes are at risk from excessive water draw-down. Van Norden Meadow aquifer and the headwaters of the South Yuba River are also at risk if Royal Gorge LLC, after antagonizing the Serene Lake folks, pulls a bait-and -switch, and shifts its parched gaze towards Van Norden Meadow. There is a real danger they’ll seek to raise the dam again, something that would bode very ill for the health of the beautiful South Yuba River.What’s to do? Demand that Royal Gorge LLC use accurate occupancy figures, and state-of-the-art technology to establish how much water their proposed developments will really require, and where this water can be obtained. Tell Royal Gorge LLC and Placer County that the Serene Lakes need water in order to remain lakes, instead of muddy eyesores. Tell Royal Gorge LLC and Nevada County that the precious headwaters of the South Yuba River are off limits. Otherwise, we’re all going to be up the creek without a paddle. Katie Gray is a Serene Lakes homeowner who likes boats. She also likes water.
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