NACIMIENTO —Concerned Nacimiento residents are worried about the amount of water being released from the lake and are exploring their legal options.
The Nacimiento Regional Water Management Advisory Committee (NRWMAC) created a GoFundMe page with the goal of raising $100,000 to cover ongoing legal costs. In three weeks, the group has received $42,000 from more than 200 people.
NRWMAC is raising money to take legal action against Monterey County — which they claim is letting too much water out and as a result is hurting recreation.
“Millions of gallons of water are being taken out of the lake each day by Monterey County and sent north, primarily for the benefit of its farmers in the Salinas Valley, but also to support a fish habitat and to sell on the open market for profit,” NRWMAC stated on the homepage of its website, nrwmac.org. “Left unchecked, this massive release of water will devastate the local economy in San Luis Obispo County, where the lake is actually located, by curtailing recreation, depressing property values and reducing business and tax revenues.”
Nacimiento Reservoir was originally designed and built by Monterey County for irrigation, flood control, groundwater recharge and recreation. It was completed in 1957. Although the lake formed by the reservoir is entirely inside the geographical boundaries of San Luis Obispo County, the water is controlled by Monterey County under an operating license issued by the State of California. The lake is northwest of Paso Robles. Total capacity of the lake is 377,900 acre-feet of water.
In 1959, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties agreed to give SLO County 17,500 acre-feet of water per year and Monterey gets 180,000 acre-feet of water per year.
Water released from Lake Nacimiento flows into the Salinas River, which in turn supports fish populations, replenishes the groundwater basin, and is used for farm purposes in the Salinas Valley.
As of Wednesday, Aug. 1, the lake was at 26 percent capacity with an elevation of 732.4 feet. The lake was 51 percent full in mid-April, according to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA).
NRWMAC contends in order for the residents to launch boats from their docks and for recreational boaters to be safe the lake’s elevation must be at 748 feet.
According to NRWMAC, Monterey County has been floating the notion that a lake level of 730 feet will sustain recreation.
“This is absolutely not true,” NRWMAC stated. “At that level, launch ramps and docks along the lake become unusable, and previously submerged rocks, tree stumps and islands start surfacing, posing hazards to boating.”
The Reservoir Operations Advisory Committee approves the lake’s release schedule early in the year and is modified over time. NRWMAC has one vote on the committee. According to the approved schedule the lake will be drawn down to 11 percent of capacity by the end of the year.
The Nacimiento group stated it has tried to work with Monterey County and garnered 6,000 signatures on a petition “demanding a reduction to the massive and unreasonable daily water releases.” NRWMAC stated Monterey County is unwilling to negotiate and dismissed the petition claiming it was “factually inaccurate.”
NRWMAC stated it has exhausted nearly its entire operating budget by subsidizing the legal fees to date. NRWMAC started the GoFundMe — www.gofundme.com/lake-nacimiento-save-the-dragon — campaign in order to sustain its legal challenge.