POA investigates lake dredging


In September 2017, the Canyon Lake POA Board of Directors elected to form an ad-hoc committee to study the issue of dredging the lake. The primary responsibility of the Dredge Committee is to advise and assist the board with developing and administering an on-going program to remove accumulated sediment from the lake.

The committee will look at protocol and policies for implementing a dredging program, long-range plans for future use of the lake and related facilities and determine the areas that need sediment removal. Providing recommendations for a proposed scope of work and researching potential funding sources would be included among the committee’s duties.

The members of the committee, POA Board Director Dale Welty (board liaison to committee), POA Director of Operations Steve Schneider, (staff liaison to committee), Steve Libring (chairman), Jack Wamsley, Chuck Bryant, Dwight Johnson, Ben Wicke, Bill Levis and Chris Poland, each uniquely have experience in either project management, lake management and/or working with local agencies that will be involved in approving any proposed project. The committee has met already several times to review the history of the previous dredging project, review permits required and agencies involved.

As many residents may know, in 2004 the Canyon Lake POA embarked on a dredging project to begin removal of silt that had accumulated from over 50 years of storm water entering the lake, mostly via the East Bay. Along with fast moving water is a fine silt that gets carried off and washes downstream, ending up on the bottom of Canyon Lake.

In the East Bay, the combination of the water levels lowering and the silt on the bottom rising, some three inches a year, is resulting in very shallow conditions that makes access to boat docks an issue for hundreds of homeowners.

Before this problem got out of hand, the POA attempted to remove the silt from the bottom and increase the depth in about 20 percent of the areas that silt had accumulated in. However, a court ruling required the project to be classified as a public works project and payment of prevailing wages, which doubled the cost of the project. The project stopped uncompleted.

A 2001 report found East Bay sediment rate between the years of 1986 and 1997 was increasing two to three inches per year, which is about 60 times the normal rate of a typical lake. Accumulated sediment also leads to reduced water storage capacity of the lake. So, the lake sediment needs to be reduced to offset these negative effects.

With the water levels recently at approximately 1376 in elevation during December 2017, some areas of the East Bay had only about four feet of depth at the edge of an owner’s dock. If Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District was ever to draw the water down to the 1372 elevation stated in the lake lease, some bays may only have a few inches of water.

While Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District is responsible for the management of the lake levels, the water level is controlled by a combination of climate, dam releases, water withdrawal, consumption, rainfall, runoff into the lake and the ever-constant evaporation.

The balancing of the lake level is to attempt to maximize the capturing and containment of future winter rainfall by allowing evaporation and water consumption to slowly lower the lake level the preceding summer, in anticipation the heavy rainfalls would replenish the lake in the winter to higher lake levels.

However, living in a drought area, the timing of when the rainfall comes and consumption rates is such that the lake can drop below expected levels and create the issue of accessibility to boat docks.

Simply put, if the rain doesn’t raise the top of the lake, we need to at least consider or plan for lowering the bottom of the bay. Each year, this balance gets tougher to predict. As the bottom is filling up, we have less room for adjustment.

The issue is much more complex than just digging out some dirt. The sediment that enters the lake via the rivers carries absorbed chemicals and elements, which affect the habitat and water supply. Stirring up these deposits of silt requires sophisticated equipment to remove without disturbing the area balance, while the costs involved to relocate the silt are very exorbitant and come with restrictions on where it can be placed.

The regulations involved are being researched again as new regulations may have been enacted since the previous project a dozen years ago.

The Dredge Committee is basically on a fact-finding mission at this point. There are environmental issues, project scope, feasibility, project costs, distribution of the silt, bacteria, water quality, regulations, permits and other issues to investigate, we’re only just starting. To do this type of project may cost millions of dollars, so planning ahead now and saving along the way is the prudent thing to do.

The Dredge Committee typically meets the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 3 p.m. in the POA Conference Room. The meetings are open to anyone who wants to participate or just come, listen and learn more.