Opinion: The Great Donner Summit jewel heist
Van Norden Lake has rightly earned the moniker of “The Jewel of Donner Summit.” The setting for this spectacular high Sierra gem is the historic Donner Summit Valley. This week the jewel was removed from its setting and the valley is the poorer without it.
There has been a lake in the Donner Summit Valley for over a century, starting shortly after the first pioneers started pouring across the summit.
The recent history of the Summit Valley has been controversial ever since the property was purchased by the Truckee Donner Land Trust. This controversy has been well documented in this publication and elsewhere.
It is not our purpose to discuss the merits of the argument but to present a preview of what its consequences may be. Pictures speak much louder than words.
This week the Land Trust was forced to empty the lake by the State Water Resources Control Board because of their inaction in obtaining proper water rights.
The result is the blue jewel of the summit has been pumped out leaving a mud hole in its place. This dramatic loss of water from the summit is a preview of what could possibly happen if the Land Trust continues with its plans to breach the dam.
There is however still time to preserve the jewel, albeit with a few less carats, if a compromise could be reached to keep a smaller lake in the valley.
This is by no means the end of Lake Van Norden. It will return in the winter and spring when the rains come and the snows melt. The real question now is will this heist become permanent? We hope not.
George Lamson & Bill Oudegeest
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