Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2012 Editorial • Kudos to our supervisors for taking up the Bly Tunnel issue again

The Bly Tunnel was constructed in the 1920s to carry water from Eagle Lake to the Honey Lake Valley. Ranchers quickly learned that the water from the lake was too alkaline to be used for irrigation.

Lassen County District 3 Supervisor Larry Wosick alleges the Bly Tunnel “sucks” or “siphons” 1.5 million gallons of water a day out of Eagle Lake — an allegation that makes many experts from state and federal agencies boil with disagreement. One of those experts said he plans to attend an upcoming supervisors’ meeting to refute Wosick’s assertion.

For some, including Wosick and a small but outspoken group of Eagle Lake residents, the problems caused by the low water level at the lake, located 15 miles from Susanville, can be solved as easily as shutting off the valve in the Bly Tunnel. Unfortunately, such simple, black and white, one-dimensional solutions generally fail to adequately address legitimate concerns or actually solve real problems.

Wosick also alleges the whole low-water problem at Eagle Lake exists simply because the corrupt Lassen County Board of Supervisors has failed to act for many years to protect Eagle Lake in order to allow some prominent families downstream on Willow Creek to steal the lake’s water to the detriment of every landowner, business person, fisherman and random visitor at Eagle Lake. As unlikely as it seems to Wosick and his group of followers, and as hard as it might be for them to accept, the debate over the Bly Tunnel did not begin when Wosick took his seat on the board. He may be new to the fight, but the battle is really quite old.

Despite the fact the board has absolutely no jurisdiction over the waters of Eagle Lake or the Bly Tunnel, the supervisors have been addressing the issue for a number of years and pressing state and federal agencies to take action or explain their lack of action.

Recently the board even directed staff to call a meeting of the Eagle Lake Interagency Board after one Eagle Lake resident suggested that board has the authority to shut off the valves in the Bly Tunnel.

Lassen County District 1 Supervisor Bob Pyle, who represents part of the county surrounding Eagle Lake, devoted much of his time during his term as board chairman in 2010 seeking to pin down the various state and federal agencies on their individual responsibilities — in writing. Through Pyle’s diligent efforts, the discussion has moved forward.

Two Novembers ago, at Pyle’s urging, the board sponsored — and invited the public to attend — a study session at Jensen Hall to give the experts an opportunity to discuss what’s happening at Eagle Lake.

“We’re looking for science instead of opinions and emotions,” Pyle said before the meeting. “I want to see if we can get some information out to the public … Hopefully we can get some answers.”

The experts at that meeting addressed a number of factors contributing to the low water level including the health of the watershed around the lake, the Bly Tunnel, PG&E’s cloud seeding program, the lake’s 15-year height oscillation pattern, the effect of increased vegetation taking water out of the system and the necessity of a plan to manage water resources in the region. They said the most important step in finding a solution was to have all the interested parties work together.

On the back wall of the supervisors’ boardroom, a chart records the rising and falling water levels at Eagle Lake since 1900.  Congratulations to the board for seeking a real solution to this complicated problem.