Irvine Lake

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by SingleTrackJB, Sep 14, 2018.

  1. SingleTrackJB

    SingleTrackJB Member

    Newport Beach

    Good article. Irvine Lake could have been a much better place. The article mentions the land gift from the Irvine Company to the county of the surrounding wildlands. Shame we can hardly use it. One of the reasons we keep going to the OTH races are the nice views up there (Limestone too in background). The whole area could be epic for MTB too...Isnt Spitzer the responsible supervisor or how does it work?
    Faust29, Mikie, Danmtchl and 4 others like this.
  2. Rumpled

    Rumpled Well-Known Member

    Jim Martin
    Current Bike:
    2003 Giant Rainier
    I can't read the article behind the paywall.
    It was really weird to me how the longstanding fishing operation got shut down so fast. Never did get the real story.
    Mikie and Danmtchl like this.
  3. DBMX119

    DBMX119 Member

    Huntington Beach
    Rick McKee
    Imagine a lake in Orange County so peaceful, so wild, that deer and mountain lions alike sip from cool waters while fisher folk cast for bass in summer and trout in winter; where kids play along the shore while moms and dads prep the barbecue.

    Until a few years ago, you didn’t have to imagine. The real deal existed at Irvine Lake. For a few bucks and a little gas, you came into an oasis of tree-lined tranquility and old-fashioned fun.

    But for the last two years, the gate has been perpetually locked. Bands that once played are silent. Formerly coveted campsites are infested with weeds. The once-cozy cafe gathers dust.

    Compared to the glistening 750-acre expanse that existed only three years ago, the lake itself is little more than a big puddle.
    How could something like this happen in our county of paradise?

    Some blame a small handful of governmental agencies that can’t get their act together. But after several years of giving up camping and fishing in exchange for nothing more than memories, it’s time to blame ourselves.

    After all, it’s citizens like us who choose the leaders that head up the three governmental agencies that determine the fate of places such as Irvine Lake.

    Accordingly, it’s arguable that people like you and me have allowed political squabbling and petty bickering to muck up what should be a jewel in Orange County’s recreational crown.

    Going fishing
    I started visiting Irvine Lake two decades ago. Every time I rode my bicycle on Santiago Canyon Road, I couldn’t help but stop and take in the view, check out a band, watch people fishing.

    Later, a mountain bike racing outfit called “Over the Hump” started offering weekly races in summer. It was hard riding, but it was always more about family than blood sport.

    In an age in which families sit down to dinners where smartphones are the focus rather than conversation, it felt like one thing was always certain — Irvine Lake would never change.

    An old brochure accurately describes this gem: “A quiet, scenic fishing lake nestled at the base of the Cleveland National Forest (with) steep rocky cliffs, shallow coves, deep creek channels, submerged high spots, overhanging trees.”

    Some folks were just fine never venturing past the shoreline. Others simply enjoyed the peace one finds sitting in a boat. Then there were true fishermen and fisherwomen.

    When lures and bait aligned, there were memorable records on the lake: rainbow trout, 22.6 pounds; steelhead trout, 17 pounds; channel catfish 50 pounds; largemouth bass, 14.7 pounds; sturgeon, 47 pounds.

    There also was a history of progress.

    Built in 1929 with the construction of a dam, the lake filled within two years. At first, the water was for the local farming communities. Then, fishing opened in 1941. Next came water for irrigation and drinking.

    Only a few years ago, you could still rent a rod for $10, hop in a motor boat for $55, fish for $22. Best, the memories were priceless.

    A review this week of dozens of photographs of men, women and children holding up fish at Irvine Lake finds smiles in every photo.

    Blame game
    Oddly, the bad blood over how to handle Irvine Lake started with a gift from the Irvine Company to the County of Orange. It included 2,500 acres of wildland near Irvine Lake.

    But soon, sticking points arose over future revenues and what to do with 25 acres of lakefront as well as an RV park reported to rake in over $300,000 a year.

    Along with the county, two entities with clout remain involved: the Irvine Ranch Water District and the Serrano Water District.

    The county tells me there is little it can do.

    “The reality is that the county does not currently have water or land rights and will not have those rights until the water districts involved are able to resolve their differences,” county spokeswoman Molly Nichelson says.

    She describes the blocked progress this way: “The county has repeatedly facilitated discussions with the water districts in an effort to move things forward and continues to encourage the parties to come to agreement so that the county can open the area for public use.”

    At the same time, Irvine Ranch Water District states, on its website, “We do not manage and are not responsible for any recreational activities.”

    IRWD Treasurer Rob Jacobson this week went so far as to add, “We’re actively working with Serrano, the Irvine Company and the county to reach an agreement to transfer recreation rights to the county.”

    But like the county, Serrano Water District has a different take.

    Serrano Water District General Manager Jerry Vilander maintains the county is stalling. He says the county hasn’t approached the district for a year.

    There’s a lot of work to be done before anything can happen, Vilander says. There’s no infrastructure, roads need to be worked on, docks are in disrepair, the cafe is gutted.

    Both the county and the water district have been dealing with more pressing issues, Vilander says. He adds he expects progress within the next year, but estimates it will take several years before there is boating.

    “At the end of the day,” Vilander says, “we have to protect the water supply.”

    The county counters, “Serrano Water District controls 25 percent of the recreation rights to the water, but has not agreed to a 25 percent share of net profits from any water-based activities.

    Instead, the county contends, “The district has indicated that they expect a significant guaranteed annual payment.”

    Serrano’s demand, the county explains, “would undermine the revenue stream that was intended and negotiated to restore the open space and construct lake-adjacent public amenities.”

    Voting rights
    Water districts are strange beasts. Every few years, many of us stare at water district ballots and realize we know absolutely nothing about the people we’re supposed to elect.

    We either skip the list entirely or vote for an unknown candidate with a name we happen to like.

    But, of course, water district boards are very real.

    Right now, for example, the Irvine Ranch Water District — which uses water in Irvine Lake — is moving from at-large elections to district elections. The deadline to submit comments and conceptual maps is Oct. 15. Who knew?

    Serrano Water District — which carries the big stick at Irvine Lake — describes its makeup this way: “Special districts are one of the most basic forms of local government, created by the people within the district to provide a specialized service.

    “Because they are localized, special districts tend to be very responsive and accountable to the voters.”

    I hear there’s an election coming up in November.
  4. kioti

    kioti iMTB Rockstah

    Jim Jennings
    Current Bike:
    ibis ripley
    ^^Text of David Whiting's OC Register article.
    Grassblade23, Mikie, DBMX119 and 4 others like this.
  5. kioti

    kioti iMTB Rockstah

    Jim Jennings
    Current Bike:
    ibis ripley
    Good place for a mountain bike park? Plenty of water to maintain the trails in summertime..

    Screen Shot 2018-09-16 at 11.48.04 AM.png
  6. SnakeCharmer

    SnakeCharmer iMTB Addict

    Crescenta Valley
    Mike, aka "Snake"
    Current Bike:
    What a disaster. Sorry to hear this.
    Mikie and Rumpled like this.
  7. DBMX119

    DBMX119 Member

    Huntington Beach
    Rick McKee
    Yeah, I guess I should have clarified that. ha ha. Thanks
    Mikie, kioti and mtnbikej like this.
  8. Obsidian

    Obsidian Well-Known Member

    Costa Mesa
    Current Bike:
    2017 Intense Tracer
    When was this ever a true statement? It has, for as long as I can remember, been a fake lake surrounded by parched terrain. Yeah, the politics suck, but Irvine Lake was never some great oasis.
    Mikie likes this.
  9. tick

    tick Member

    Current Bike:
    Process 111
    We’re talking about a county and two state-created water districts. So Steven Choi and John Moorlach would be the offices to contact.
    even if the county acquires the on-water recreation rights, they still don’t own the water. IRWD owns the water that isn’t in Peters Canyon too. We were told by the county at one of the planning meetings that they had not been able to get the IRWD to continue to store water in there, so it stays dry.
    SingleTrackJB and Mikie like this.
  10. DavidWhiting

    DavidWhiting Newbie with Hope!

    Rancho Santa Margarita
    David Whiting
    Current Bike:
    GT Sensor Pro carbon
    Faust29 likes this.
  11. DBMX119

    DBMX119 Member

    Huntington Beach
    Rick McKee
    People did click but were blocked. And before I was a subscriber, I don't think I was able to see more than one or two per month.

    Not to get off topic, but....................
    I joined during the Holy Fire, but honestly the whole process was such a mess and took days to get access that I am still considering cancelling my subscription. It's 2018 and I had to go through outside agencies to set up an account, then wait for the paper to be notified so I can create my password with the paper, and then had to wait for access again.

    I met you at Old Camp years ago and really like your articles, but they are one of the few things I find on the site interesting and accurate.
    mtnbikej likes this.