Eagle Lake, native trout devastated by drawdown
By: Tom Stienstra
San Francisco Chronicle
Many leaks will sink a big ship, and Eagle Lake, California’s second largest natural lake inside state borders, is going down.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service posted a 90-day petition to undertake a status review of the Eagle Lake Trout and whether to list it as an endangered or threatened species.
Eagle Lake is located in Lassen County in northeastern California. It is set at an elevation of 5,098 feet, is home to the renowned native Eagle Lake Trout, and for the past 30 years, has provided some of the best fall trout fishing in the Western U.S. In addition, the Department of Fish and Game uses Eagle Lake and Pine Creek to collect eggs for its hatcheries and then provide Eagle Lake Trout to hundreds of lakes across Northern California.
For those unfamiliar with the lake, note that it is a natural lake, not a reservoir constructed to ship water south and therefore subject to drawdowns, like Oroville, Shasta and so many others. As a natural lake, Eagle Lake, and its great native fish and wildlife resources, is supposed to be protected from that kind of manipulation.
The lake has instead been drawn down to the point that several boat ramps and marinas are high and dry. Visitors who show up from out of the area and see it for the first time like this are shocked at the conditions. September, October and early November are usually the peak of the season here.
Now it’s a disaster and everybody is pointing fingers at each other.
—-Pine Creek Diversions: Pine Creek is the lake’s biggest feeder stream, 40 miles long, and provides spawning habitat for trout. The Eagle Lake Guardians say diversions by ranchers to cattle ponds turn the stream that enters the lake into a warm trickle.
—-Bly Tunnel: The Department of Fish and Game blamed diversions from the Bly Tunnel, an eight-inch diversion pipe. Certainly the Bly Tunnel contributed to lake level drawdown in 2011 after a good water year. Yet since the pipe was closed this year, the lake levels have continued to recede.
—-Local wells: Some blame the amount of water used from wells in the lake’s aquifer, wells built by owners of a high number of vacation homes. All those wells are like too many straws sucking the water out of a big drink, they say.
—-Drought & diversions: Last year’s poor snowpack and spring snowmelt provided less water into the lake than was taken out by diversions.
—-Drought & evaporation: The water lost from the natural evaporative rate from hot days in the northeastern desert was not replaced by the amount of water entering the lake from creeks.
—-PG&E cloud seeding: The local conspiracy theory is that PG&E cloud seeding has altered the regional climate and added chemicals in the lake, which PG&E denies.
Published 1 year, 2 months ago under Rivers to Oceans