Blake Warren – ON THE HOOK

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Wednesday, May 01, 2019
Gem of Diego
Wednesday, July 03, 2019
A long, Long con

‘Irvine Fake,’ revisited
It’s now been over three years since Irvine Lake’s gates were closed to the public on Feb. 28, 2016, but a recent Orange County grand jury report detailing the dysfunction surrounding the parties involved who are to blame for the lake still remaining unusable might just twist some arms and at least get some kind of ball rolling at long, well-overdue last. I wrote an initial “Irvine Fake” column in these pages about the conundrum surrounding the stagnant nature of negotiations and any possible path toward a possible resolution in reopening the lake for public recreation in September of last year (Sept. 21 issue, page 7).

Not much has really changed in that regard, except for the fact that the recent grand jury findings may actually force the parties involved to at least come to the table and make a mere half hearted attempt at figuring something – ANYTHING – out rather than just continue on with the petty and immature bickering and infighting that’s dragged things to an essential standstill like a zillion-ton anchor.

THIS NEBRASKA TAILWALKER caught at the 2015 Irvine Lake Trout Opener was the type of specimen anglers flocked to Santiago Canyon for each and every year.

As for a little background first, here’s the gist of it all: In 2015, the Irvine Co. agreed to bestow 2,500 acres surrounding Irvine Lake to the County of Orange. The previous concessionaire at the lake prior to it closing was the Serrano Water District, whose lease — as part of the land transfer agreement — wasn’t renewed in late 2015 to continue operating the concessions. Hence, that’s when the gates closed to the lake. Well, Serrano, which owns 25 percent of the water rights to Irvine clearly wasn’t thrilled with that decision. Irvine Ranch Water District also owns a percentage of the lake’s water rights, and OC Parks can’t even begin to start planning for any type of recreation at the lake until the parties come to some sort of agreement. But it’s been as clear as the water that runs down your drain — especially after this most recent grand jury report — that nobody involved has even been trying to find a solution to creating a path to the lake reopening to public recreation.

In the 30-page grand jury report, jurors hammered both water districts for failing to make any progress toward a resolution, saying that IRWD hasn’t provided any information or any plans for a new successor to come in to OC Parks despite a number of contacts by OC Parks, while noting that SWD had no documented communication with OC Parks in regard to recreation rights in nearly two full years. How’s that for sitting on your hands? And these are elected officials mind you, to make matters even worse, as if we needed yet another local government failure on our hands here.

Thankfully, however, the grand jury report and its aftermath provide a little positive light at the end of the tunnel for those of us eternally hopeful that Irvine will one day reopen to fishing. The jurors ultimately came to the conclusion that the situation and the three government agencies involved needed some serious arm twisting and oversight, which is the first actual legitimately positive news regarding the Irvine Lake to arise since its gates sadly closed over three years ago.

Here’s what we now have to look at going forward: First, less than three months from now, the agencies must all give their input on a possible resolution to the presiding judge of the superior court. Next, if the involved parties cannot come to some type of resolution by year’s end, they will be required to post the obstacles as to why not on the web, along with how they plan on overcoming said obstacles and coming to a resolution on the issues at hand. After that, the report stated that by March 21, 2020, OC Parks, “…should hold open public planning meetings to address possible uses and activities.”

Those meetings would still be 10 months out, but hey, it’s a start. At least somebody has stepped up to push the ball forward and put an end to this ridiculousness from a few dozen folks to keep a treasured public resource for the better part of a century inaccessible to that very public it once served so well.

And there should be no viable reason that Irvine Lake doesn’t in fact reopen in due time. The concession always, or almost always, turned a profit of some sort with boating and fishing being on the menu. The RV storage facility at the lake is also a revenue producer, and the grand jury report even kicked out a handful of more ideas to add revenue streams. If just brought back up on-line to its past operating levels, the jurors wrote, “it would appear operations would produce net income in roughly the historical amounts.”

Ok then, the writing is now on the proverbial wall. The lake is still a highly coveted public resource for outdoor folks near and far, and it is still a viable moneymaker with taking the necessary steps forward. There are plenty of reasons these steps need to start being taken, and for all the bickering and posturing by the few who are denying the many to just finally come to an end at long last. Those fish are still just all in that lake in Santiago Canyon waiting for us. Let’s just hope that this actually means things will actually start to happen and that some type of resolution will soon be in sight.

In the meantime, it probably wouldn’t hurt to send a few emails to these folks urging them to finally come to the table and figure something out. The grand jury put a good bit of pressure on them to get their acts together. A little more pressure probably wouldn’t hurt from those of us just wanting to get back on the water either.


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Reader Comments

Way to go!! Between You the Grand Jury and David at the O C Register you guys are keeping the Pressure on these non sportsman comfortable in collecting there salaries elected officials. We the Public Stand with you all the way. Thank You. There are a Whole Lot of us out here waiting. Maybe next time you could expose their E-Mail addresses. Thanks again William
William Lundquist

Thank you!!! Hopefully this will shake things Up for all. Not just for my family but all kids that are missing out on such a beautiful place.
As a possible future resident of Irvine and an avid angler, I'd like to know who I can contact in city government in order to voice my opinion that they need to get moving on getting this resource open for public use. Any additional contact info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
Donny E
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