Raising Coyote Dam
by Janie Sheppard, September 16, 2010
Last night representatives from the local water agencies met to hear a presentation by the Corps of Engineers on its plans for the Coyote Dam at Lake Mendocino. The public was invited. Bill and I attended, as did Fifth District Candidate for Supervisor, Dan Hamburg.
Below I report the gist of the meeting.
Local water agencies want to increase the capacity of Lake Mendocino to provide a more dependable source of water, presumably for irrigation. This year, the Corps has raised the level of the lake to the point where some land-based recreation has disappeared, or is unusable.
A significant portion of the lake is now occupied by sediment, thereby decreasing its capacity to hold water. Dredging, however, is not a viable option for reasons of expense, stirring up the mercury buried in the sediment, and huge logistical problems in removing the sediment.
Safety issues must be addressed first. The spillway is undersized, there is some seepage, and the ever-present seismic issue isn’t going away.
Raising the dam remains the most obvious solution, but only after identifying and solving the safety issues. But, studies addressing safety and the feasibility of raising the dam remain low-priority in terms of allocating the very limited Corps budget.
A proposed “solution” to the money and priority issues is to demonstrate unified local and downstream support for completing the studies and raising the dam. This would be done by getting boards of trustees of local water agencies to pass identical resolutions in favor of dam raising. Mike Thompson could then use the resolutions to get Congress to pass a special appropriation that would direct the Corps to finish the studies, and raise the dam.
As the meeting was winding down I brought up land-based recreation. A genial Corps employee said that in any environmental impact statement the impacts to land-based recreation would be addressed, as if that solved the problem.
The problem is, however, that land-based recreation will disappear if the dam is raised.
The Board of Supervisors and anyone who hikes, mountain bikes, camps, rides horses, or looks at wildflowers at Lake Mendocino should speak up in favor of land-based recreation — NOW, before it’s too late. ¥¥