Monday, 15 July 2024

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UPPER LAKE – Officials hope to get help from lawmakers in moving forward on the Middle Creek Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project.

 

The county's Water Resource division reports that the project is located at the north end of Clear Lake in the area bounded by State Highway 20 and Rodman Slough, and would improve watershed health and Clear Lake's water quality. The project would eliminate flood risk to 18 residential structures, numerous outbuildings and approximately 1,280 acres of agricultural land, which originally was reclaimed from the lake between 1900 and 1940 through levee construction.

 

Later, in 1958, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased the size of the levee system and added another 200 acres of agriculture lands. Levees in the area are in settling and are believed to be prone to failure during a major flood event, say county officials.

 

The total cost for the project is $37.4 million, with $24.4 million coming from federal funds. Bob Lossius, Lake County's assistant director of Public Works, said most of those funds would come through the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

 

The House version of the WRDA, HR 2864, passed in 2005, he said, with the Senate's version, S728, passing last year. Lossius said the two bills were to be taken into a joint Senate and House conference to come out with a version that was acceptable in both houses. “They never did come together and resolve that before the end of the last Congress,” he said.

 

One of the issues that may have hung the bill up, said Lossius, is a land transfer between the county and Robinson Rancheria. Thirty acres of Robinson's land, which is held in trust, would be flooded in the restoration project, said Lossius. He said the county is attempting to have included in the legislation a transfer agreement in which other land Robinson already owns – located a mile from the project area – could be transferred into trust to replace the flooded land.

 

Both the tribe and the county have agreed to the plan, Lossius said. Lossius said the trust transfer has been a “political hot potato,” with some lawmakers concerned that it's a matter of “trust hunting,” or allowing tribes to add off-reservation lands into tribal holdings. Lossius said this is only a matter of helping reimburse a landholder for lands that would go underwater. “This has been an ongoing issue for a number of years,” he said.

 

Now, the county is making an effort to get the stalled effort back on course. On Feb. 5, Lossius sent a letter to Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, and Rep. Mike Thompson asking for their help in moving the project forward. Lossius said the Water Resources Division is working with the Lake County Land Trust to put together an information booklet on the project. The full text of Lossius' letter to Boxer, Feinstein and Thompson is below:

 

Dear Sen. Boxer: Congratulations on your selection as Chairperson for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works. I look forward to your continued support of the Middle Creek Flood Damage Reduction and Ecosystem Restoration Project (Project).

 

As you are aware, the purpose of the Project, located in Lake County, CA, is to restore the Middle Creek flood plain to its natural wetland ecosystem and provide flood damage reduction for certain areas in the flood plain. The Project will cause the urgently needed removal of an aging and failure-prone levee system, built in the mid-1900’s, that poses significant risk of harm to life and property. The Project will require an exchange of like-title for replacement lands for property owners within the Project area.

 

Furthermore, the Project has two primary benefits that are significant from both a public safety and environmental perspective. First, it will eliminate the current flood risk by relocating the property owners and removing substandard levees.

 

These levees were never constructed to proper standards and are the most prone to failure during a major flood event. The area was evacuated in 1983, 1986, and 1998, with evacuation imminent in 1995. It is in the interest of the County, and those living behind the levees, to have the Project moved forward without delay. Second, it will allow the Project area to be reclaimed as a functional wetland, thereby improving the watershed health and the water quality of Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in California.

 

The restored wetland will also increase habitat for fish and wildlife, greatly improving the bird nesting habitat and increasing the available spawning habitat for native and non-native fish. The Project has secured an authorization in both the House-passed Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA), H.R. 2864, and the Senate committee passed WRDA legislation, S. 728. However, missing from these authorizations is a critical mitigation factor. Several parcels in the Project area are held by the United States in trust status for the Robinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians (“Tribe”).

 

A County-led effort has identified a plan to allow the trust title to be transferred to other similarly sized parcels owned by the Tribe located just a mile from the Project area. This is a mutually agreeable plan for all parties and we are seeking language in WRDA to allow for this exchange. The County is seeking your assistance in securing this language. For your information, I have included a booklet that describes the Project and its benefits. If you or your staff have any questions please contact me at (707) 263-2341. Thank you for your leadership and assistance.

 

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The accident at Merritt Road and Highway 29 resulted in minor injuries. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
KELSEYVILLE – A two-car accident at Merritt Road and Highway 29 before noon on Thursday resulted in minor injuries for one of the drivers.

LUCERNE – State Department of Fish & Game officials say that the avian cholera outbreak that has killed thousands of waterfowl on the lake in the past few weeks appears to be ending.

DFG Game Warden Lynette Shimek said because of rainy weather crews ceased collecting dead ruddy ducks and birds on the lake on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the day of “last big push,” Shimek said three boat crews picked up 150 dead birds.

That's down significantly from the early days of the die-off, in which DFG was collecting about 1,000 dead birds a day.

Shimek said DFG believes that the die-off is over. “There will be a few residual birds that will die from it,” she said.

The large flocks of ruddy ducks that winter on the lake have left now, she said. Officials are hoping that with the warmer weather and rain, conditions that helped the die-off – particularly the animals' close proximity – are over, Shimek added.

The die-off, which began more than two weeks ago, has so far claimed about 8,000 ruddy ducks and other water birds, said Shimek. That's the same amount of birds that died in the first avian cholera outbreak on the lake in January 2004, she said.

“That seems to be the magic number,” Shimek added.

The additional DFG crew members brought in from the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area near Gridley – almost a dozen in all – have returned home, said Shimek.

If, however, many more dead birds are found after the rain stops, Shimek said DFG might bring additional staff back to finish collection.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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LAKE COUNTY Revel in the dry weather today, for tomorrow the National Weather Service (NWS) in Sacramento predicts that the persistent dry weather pattern will be over and the rainfall beginning on Wednesday will catch us up to normal rainfall amounts.

LUCERNE – Department of Fish & Game (DFG) officials are reporting that after two weeks of dealing with a massive avian cholera outbreak on the lake, the numbers of dead birds are beginning to lessen substantially. 

Late last month thousands of birds, mostly the migratory ruddy ducks that visit Clear Lake during the winter, began to die. DFG veterinarians ruled it was a case of avian cholera, which caused a similar die-off in January 2004.

 

DFG Game Warden Lynette Shimek said she and fellow game warden, Loren Freeman, picked up 116 dead ducks on Sunday. Fog conditions on Saturday prevented collection efforts, she said.

 

Three DFG boats were on the lake Monday, Shimek reported, and picked up 232 dead birds.

 

The pockets of dead and dying birds appear to be becoming more scattered, Shimek said.

 

Late last month thousands of birds, mostly the migratory ruddy ducks that visit Clear Lake during the winter, began to die. DFG veterinarians ruled it was a case of avian cholera, which caused a similar die-off in January 2004.

 

DFG Game Warden Lynette Shimek said she and fellow game warden, Loren Freeman, picked up 116 dead ducks on Sunday. Fog conditions on Saturday prevented collection efforts, she said.

 

Three DFG boats were on the lake Monday, Shimek reported, and picked up 232 dead birds.

 

The pockets of dead and dying birds appear to be becoming more scattered, Shimek said.

 

That has led DFG to think that the worst of the die-off is over, said Shimek.

 

“The birds probably will continue to die over the next week or so,” she said.

 

Few ruddy ducks remain on the lake, Shimek noted; those that were still healthy have moved on in their migration.

 

So far, 7,500 dead birds have been collected, she said. Collection efforts are an important part of DFG's protocol in dealing with avian cholera, because officials report that it helps prevent the disease from spreading.

 

Last month Shimek said DFG was especially concerned about keeping the outbreak from reaching the lake's thousands of wintering grebes.

 

DFG boat crews will be back on the lake Tuesday morning, said Shimek, and will reassess the die-off situation in the early afternoon.

 

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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