Independence Lake BOS

More on Independence 061610

Photo from "Friends" presentation in Board Packet

The Friends of Independence Lake appeared before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, 15 June, 2010.

The Friends were accompanied by Yet More Friends, as the Loyalton Social Hall was filled beyond capacity with local people anxious to have access to Independence Lake restored.

It was, in one sense, and appeal to the wrong king; the Board has almost nothing to say about the lake.

Before the community

In another sense, it was highly effective because it placed a community issue before the representatives of the community. It also gave the supporters a chance to show themselves in public, and it gave Mr. Fichtel, of the Nature Conservancy, a chance to see how many locals feel about TNC, their plan, and Independence Lake.

Since TNC obtained the land from NVEnergy, they have prevented access to the lake. Further, they’ve indicated they plan to prevent the use of motorized boats and to shift camping around to the far end of the lake.

Friends' Worklist

The Friends gave a presentation to the Board, but since there is really no way in the Social Hall to present something so both the board and the audience can see it, it lacked some of the power it possesses when clearly viewed. View it clearly by downloading the Board packet here,  and let us say again what a great job the Clerk’s office does.

The Friends of Independence Lake make a couple of relatively compelling arguments.

First, there is the fact that the lakebed is publicly owned, there is a county road leading to the lake, it is recognized as a navigable waterway, and there is historic public use.

Second, there is a very large amount of public money in the purchase. Finally, the group, when applying for a Prop 84 grant, only specified excluding 2 cycle motors, not all motors, and it promised increased access, not limited access.

Regarding access, Robert Haug, who has been caretaker at the lake for a decade or so, read an opinion from Sierra Pacific Power, then owner of the land around the lake, which was quite specific that access to the lake was to remain open unless the road was closed.

There were many people lined up to speak to the board, but they weren’t invited to. The Board had the preliminary budget and a long closed session on the agenda, and other than trying to assert the county’s ownership of the road and its boundaries, there isn’t much they can do.

Still, there was discussion, and part of that discussion can be encapsulated in remarks from Lee Adams and Pat Whitley. The remarks weren’t connected in discussion as we’ve connected them here, and these are not their true words, but they still constitute the meat of the exchange:

Lee Adams: This is private property.

Pat Whitley: The hell it is! It was paid for with tax dollars, it’s ours.

(Much clapping for Pat.)

There were other remarks from people who sneaked by Chair Goicoechea. One resident with longtime experience in the area warned of having anglers along the shore when the fuels were dry, and encouraged boating for that reason. Another citizen mentioned how he resented the use of public money to take something away from the public that they had. It was noted that the wind comes up on Independence and you need a motor to get the hell off the lake.

TNC's Fichtel: you can't even see the dam from the campground.

Mr. Fichtel also spoke. He didn’t add much to the conversation, and seemed baffled by the resistance to the changes. Regarding moving the camping and restricting cars, Fichtel said the new camping location was great because "you can’t even see the dam."

Here’s this reporter’s two cents:

  1. It’s a public lake; the water, when it leaves the lake, is owned by someone or other, but while fish are breathing it, it belongs to the people, as does the land beneath the lake.
  2. The Nature Conservancy, which used to be a non-profit operating for the public good, has become a landowner. Bullshit; we paid for the land, and they might be administering it, but we own it. When they turn their hand to some useful trade and earn money and buy land, they can call it theirs. When they talk public officials out of our money, the product of that money is ours.
  3. This is, once again, a clash of cultures, with those from more urban areas wanting to create a kind of natural Disneyland we enjoy calling "Muirland" where they can have a completely pristine, and so very un-natural, experience. For them to have this artificially created Muir moment, they have to be able to pretend that they aren’t canoeing on someone’s tap water, they aren’t marveling at pristine forest that has been logged over and over, they aren’t stepping all over the rights of long time users, and they aren’t using public money to create this experience. That’s a lot of imagination.

Independence Lake is not really a playland. It is sweet and hospitable for a couple of months a year, but even then it can turn cold and especially windy at any time. Indeed, this reporter has seen waves whipped up in a very short time, and a short time later the wind was clipping the tops off the waves. The lake is long, and when the wind follows the length, it howls in no time. Someone at the lake better have a boat with a real motor, or natural selection is going to start working on the canoeing Muirians at Independence Lake.

County Council Jim Curtis discouraged trying to determine the legal length of the road (he didn’t say the last thing the county could afford was another lawsuit), but said that the Attorney General deals with violations of navigable waterways. Pat Whitley suggested going to the AG with the matter.

We’ll hazard a guess that the outcome will depend on the outcry. By Sacramento standards, the presentation on Independence Lake was an intimate affair, but by local standards, it was a major crowd. More importantly, there were old timers there one doesn’t see at public meetings much. This runs deep among those hearty folks that love the fickle and freezing shores of Independence Lake. If you look under "tenacious" in the dictionary, there’s a picture of a Sierra County rancher.

The Dissenting Editor, who is part Muirian herself, is working like a scab at The Mountain Messenger while Don Russell abandons the helm of his ship to frolic in the pristine wilderness of Detroit. However, she did say "I want them to keep the motorboats out of Independence."

The Fringe editor, however, says "Bullshit." Why should so many local people give up the freedoms they had under a private landowner so some people who aren’t from here can pretend they’re the first white people to see the lake?

Of all the people prepared to speak in the room, the person who probably knows most about the entire issue, Bill Copren, AKA Mr. Trout Unlimited, refused to speak, claiming he had to go fishing and couldn’t take the time to talk. The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout reside in the lake, one of the two last places they are thought to be native. The few legitimate concerns about the lake revolve around aquatic invasive species, particularly those which might be brought in on boat trailers and motors. Copren has spoken before on the need to give the area around the lake, and the trout who call it home, special care. Copren, an avid fisherperson, releases the fish he catches. It’s difficult, and probably dangerous, to classify Copren as a Muirian, but as a recovering exploiter of natural resources, he does tend toward reserving those last unpolluted, undeveloped, and unpopulated places.

The Only Little Boy to fish Independence last year, after a half century of
little fisher boys and girls.
There was no one else present willing or qualified to give a defense of keeping people off a lake they own, and off land they have traditionally used and helped pay for.

The Real Disney once planned to use Independence Lake. Read about it HERE 

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