Blake Warren – ON THE HOOK

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Friday, March 31, 2017
(Back) On down to San Antone

Rallying around the cause, 'en base'
My best plans had obviously been laid to waste. Here I was, thinking I was being Mr. Foresight by showing up 30 minutes after the official start of this past Thursday's San Diego City Council meeting, hoping to strategically avoid the inevitable chunk of time that was inescapably going to be chewed up by your standard local bureaucratic protocol. While my goal was at least partially accomplished in missing some of the blah-blah start to the proceedings, there was no doubt I had seriously underestimated this foul protocol's obvious hatred for brevity and efficiency, and I paid the steep price of enduring over an hour and a half's time focused solely on the fascinating topic of “mass-scale recycling” jargon and its accompanying procedures. It all has to be about at least as effective as Ambien.

Finally, once all the highly excitable chatter about “zero-waste goals” was in the rear-view mirror, it came time for what I was here for: Agenda Item #9: Status update of the Pure Water San Diego Project and Miramar Reservoir — otherwise known as the often referred to, the “Toilet to Tap” project. I surmised that the topic of potentially losing one of the world’s best historic big bass reservoirs fell into the category of my particular job responsibilities as a 'fishing newspaperman' and somehow found myself in an uncomfortable chair on the twelfth floor of an old San Diego administration building at 2:30 in the afternoon.

An uber-brief summary of the Pure Water project for the sake of clarity: Essentially, the project is designed to purify reclaimed water to a significant enough degree to make it potable, with the intention of eventually delivering 1/3 of San Diego’s total drinking water — or 30 million gallons a day — to Miramar Reservoir through this effort by 2021. At issue for us anglers is the fear that Miramar’s highly nutrient-rich ecosystem — which has reared 5 of the world’s 25 largest officially recorded bass — will become diluted as a result of such a high volume of purified water being regularly pumped into the reservoir, affecting the ecosystem’s microorganisms, forage supply and potentially even making Miramar’s bass sterile. Thus, potentially jeopardizing the future of one of the most historic big-bass fisheries on the planet.

After hearing the status update from the folks leading the charge in the Pure Water efforts — efforts that are apparently ahead of schedule — it was time for public comment. Despite it being mid-afternoon on a Thursday, there were three fishermen who made sure the City Council heard what they had to say on the issue at hand: Duane Patenaude of San Diego Anglers fishing club, and big-bass anglers Michael Nute and Joe Ahrens. All three of these local anglers stressed the importance of Miramar to the area as a unique and historically significant big-bass fishery, and urged the council to ensure every possible measure was taken to protect the reservoir’s fish and to make every effort to alter its ecosystem as little as possible. The passion for Miramar and the sport of bass fishing from these three anglers was on clear display.

“I’m also a bass fisherman,” Ahrens told the council, “and I wasn’t about to be sitting at home while this meeting was going on, so here I am.” This coming on the heels of both Patenaude and Nute having just offered up their strong opinions on the topic and explaining the importance Miramar has within the context of San Diego bass fishing. Here these guys were — along with a handful of other anglers in attendance — making sure the fishing community was well represented on a Thursday afternoon, missing work, and fishing, and having just sat through nearly two hours of mind-drumming “recycling talk” while waiting for their chance to speak. If nothing else, the City Council is aware that there are plenty of anglers out there who take this issue to heart, and I eventually left the proceedings feeling like angler presence had made an impact.

I would still like to see the project swayed in the direction of San Vicente Reservoir, where as Mike Nute pointed out to the council, there is 37 times more water capacity than at Miramar. But knowing how these types of things work — especially in San Diego — I’m not so sure that is in the cards of our current reality. But wouldn’t it really make more sense from all sides in the long-term?

And it wouldn't merely be to the benefit of San Diego anglers and Miramar's fish population alone. I'm no Nostradamic visionary, nor do I fancy myself an amateur city planner, but I would have to believe that designating San V as the primary reservoir for the Pure Water project would very likely have plenty of its own merits, advantages and positive long-term benefits on the whole. After all, it would stand to reason that if the Pure Water project ends up being even half of the success that the proponents who've been lobbying behind it for years now have claimed all along, that we would most certainly eventually want that added capacity of 37 times the water capacity San V offers over Miramar as the primary reservoir of the project... Would we not? Wouldn't we want to plan accordingly, assuming the premise that Pure Water will be the huge success it has so often been talked up to be in recent years and taking measures to allow for that success to develop further and build upon it, allowing future room for the massive and costly project to expand and grow? I don't know, I'm just trying to make a little sense of things here – just brainstorming a bit... Don't shoot the messenger, okay?

So, redirecting the meat of the Pure Water project toward San Vicente Reservoir would require an additional 20 miles of piping? Massive projects are being both undertaken and completed successfully around the globe each and every day. Phenomenal things. Mind-blowing feats of engineering, imagination and intellectual creativity... and we balk because of an additional 20 miles of water piping in one of the country's most beautiful, dynamic and innovative cities?

In spite of my up-front admission to not having any sort of background in civil engineering, surely the construction of a 28-mile water pipeline can be accomplished in the City of San Diego in 2017. Especially in order to preserve the integrity of something that is incredibly rare and one of just a select few things like it on the planet, exactly as Miramar is within the context of the sport of bass fishing.

At this stage of the process, construction of the Pure Water facilities is in the process of being bid on and approved, some of which is already further along than many expected at this point. An initial overall Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been delivered and deemed worthy of the project moving forward, which has already been approved by the city council and is well in the works.

But until the project-specific EIR reveals its findings this summer, for now, all we can do in the best interest of Miramar and its fishery is remain vocal and continue to express to the powers that be the reservoir's value and its historical importance to our sport. Passion most often comes out in force when something beloved to someone or a group of people comes under threat of some sort. And if nothing else, the Pure Water San Diego Project and its potential threat to one of the world's most prolific big-bass fisheries has at the very least served to prove that there is no shortage of passion within the San Diego – and Southern California, for that matter – fishing community, who has already rallied around the small, world-class reservoir en masse, signing over 400 petitions on the topic thus far. Local bassers are going to have to continue schooling up and wolf packing around the coves of this issue for months to come if the rich history and integrity of Miramar is to win out in the end. But it most certainly seems, and feels, worthwhile in doing so in the meantime...

Upon settling into the City of Administration building's well-used elevator upon conclusion of the City Council meeting late last week, a relatively simple idea suddenly dawned on me: Why not lobby for Miramar to be preserved as it is as an historical landmark of sorts? It's a notion going back over a century to the days of Teddy Roosevelt – natural conservation for the benefit of future generations to experience and enjoy.

Why can’t San Diego's – and one of the planet's – most unique and historically significant freshwater fisheries be deemed a historic landmark or reserve and protected as such? Surely, that might at least be an idea worth kicking around a bit, and perhaps it’s already too late for that. But I for one feel it is an idea that's a long cast away from being bathed in absurdity or a notion with one foot already inside the loony bin... But what do I know? I'm just a messenger... don't shoot.

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