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Infuriates Southland boaters


November 01, 2001|By AL KALIN, Special to this newspaper

To say Southland boaters are upset with Metropolitan Water District is an understatement. They're so mad they could spit.

It all has to do with the new 4,500-acre Diamond Valley Lake in the Diamond and Domenigoni valleys, 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. When full, Diamond Valley Lake, near the Hemet-San Jacinto area, will be nearly 5 miles long and 3 miles wide.

During its planning stages Diamond Valley Lake was promoted as a major recreation area with pleasure boating and fishing at the top of the list. Southern California fishermen and pleasure boaters rallied behind the idea and voiced their OK for a clearance so construction could begin. Civic leaders in Riverside County envisioned an economic boon for the area with the addition of hotels, marinas, golf courses, nature trails and a world-class bass fishery from which perhaps the next world record bass would emerge. They all licked their chops as they waited for the lake to near completion.


The lake was built to store imported water from the Colorado River as well as the State Water Project that brings water all the way from Lake Oroville in Northern California. Diamond Valley Lake will be the largest manmade reservoir in Southern California and is designed to solve the problem of a growing Southern California population, periodic droughts and water rights disputes. In addition, it will serve as an emergency water supply for Southern California should a large earthquake strike the region and rupture the various aqueducts that furnish water to the area.

California State Fish & Game biologists have spent the last four years building and installing thousands of brush piles and spawning tubes for largemouth bass and catfish. Transplanted largemouth bass and catfish have acted as the brood stock and estimates put the fish population at 300,000 for the lake that is slated to be full by the summer of 2003. Most of this work was funded by fishing license sales in California as MWD public relation jockeys promised fishermen one of the top warm water fisheries in California.

The funds and grants to build the Diamond Valley Marina came from fuel taxes paid by the 750,000 boaters in California as they waited for the day the lake would be open for business.

In a nutshell, this project would never have gotten off the ground if it had not been OK'd by the fishermen and pleasure boaters of Southern California.

But all of these visions may not come to pass as the lake continues to fill to capacity. It seems MWD doesn't want boaters on the lake. MWD has already decided water contact sports such as swimming, skiing and jet skis will not be allowed even though most other lakes in California allow contact sports knowing the water will ultimately be treated before being used by Southern California's population.

A few weeks ago Orange County MWD representatives attempted to ban all outboard motors from the lake but were not successful. As a result, MWD's board of directors is studying three different options on boating rules.

Option 1: Allows only boats powered by humans, sail, acceptable gasoline engines or electric engines. No motor would be allowed that used gasoline with the MTBE additive. In addition, motors would have to meet California's low emission standards including four-stroke or diesel compression ignition engines or direct fuel injection or low- emission two-stroke engines. All outboards would have to meet CARB 2001 model year or later certification. Only 2 percent of the outboard motors in California would meet these regulations.

Option 2: Allows only those boats powered by humans, sail or electric motors. No gasoline-powered boats would be allowed.

Option 3: Would be to take no action and ask staff to return to the board with another proposed policy closer to the anticipated opening of the lake in the summer of 2003.

From a fisherman's point of view, none of these options is acceptable. When the board recently met to choose one of the options, Southland anglers, civic leaders and boating representatives flooded MWD chambers and forced the board to table the vote. The MWD board is hoping for a future date with a less-intimidating atmosphere where it can vote without any opposition.

MWD Director James Edwards pretty much put things in perspective during the recent meeting when he said, "I thought we were a wholesaler of water." It's evident he doesn't give a hoot what devious methods MWD uses to come up with the water it intends to wholesale.

MWD's crack public relations team has pulled the old "bait and switch" trick on the outdoor enthusiasts of Southern California. Instead of a lake full of people enjoying multiple types of water sports, and made possible by their approval, it appears there will only be an empty lake full of water while millions of taxpayers' dollars will have gone to waste because of the strict access rules MWD will most likely force on the fishing and boating public.

Outdoor Tales writer Al Kalin can be reached on the Internet at

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