Changes planned for Caples Lake |

Changes planned for Caples Lake

Susan Wood

Construction of a boat ramp and a 17-vehicle parking lot would begin in 2008.

Caples Lake anglers may have better luck catching trout and finding a place to park as the result of a 2-year-old legal settlement with the El Dorado Irrigation District and other agencies over Sierra lake levels.

The regional water agency plans to use California Department of Boating and Waterways grant money to start a $1.4 million expansion project that includes a boat ramp, parking lot, restroom facilities and a picnic area. Fish stocking will also be enhanced at the lake.

Under a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission mandate, the EID has agreed to fund the improvements even if the state fails to come through by 2006. Construction is expected to begin by 2008.

Many recreational enthusiasts such as fishermen, kayakers and canoers have long sought better facilities for the Alpine County lake off Highway 88. Parking has been limited to the road and the 17 spaces at Caples Lake Resort, which charges $15 to launch a boat. The parking spillover has forced many motorists to park on the highway.

Resort owner John Voss said he’s wanted the public facility to accommodate the demand since he bought the property on the other side of the lake in 1982. His resort has nine cabins, a restaurant and a bed and breakfast.

“It’ll enhance recreation here,” he said.

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“Access is a problem there. And the resort ramp is somewhat unusable,” South Shore boat fisherman Mark Wiza said, referring to the resort parking and boat launch area. While the U.S. Forest Service is the landlord, EID manages the lake.

The water district holds a contract agreement to drain water from the lake for downhill users, an arrangement that was at stake in the lawsuit. Fishermen were joined by the League to Save Sierra Lakes, Alpine County and Kirkwood Public Utility District in fighting EID over keeping Caples at adequate levels. Silver and Aloha lakes were also on tap for drainage.

In some years, Aloha Lakes would resemble a few ponds. But last year, EID made major improvements to the Desolation Wilderness dam area.

The settlement requires EID to keep Caples Lake at 10,000 acre feet except under “dire emergencies,” Alpine County legal counsel Dennis Crabb reported. There’s a criteria to determine these circumstances for EID to keep its hydroelectric power license.

Wiza said he’s skeptical the EID will keep the lake at the adequate level, but if they do, then “God bless them,” he said.

California Fish and Game stocked the lake with 16,400 catchable rainbows and 8,340 browns last year.

For this fishing season, which begins April 30, officials are launching a 10-year, $150,000 plan to stock more trout in the lake from a Susanville hatchery, according to one of the settlement partners – the Kirkwood Public Utility District.

“We’re excited. We’ve gotten a lot of positive comments about the plan,” Kirkwood PUD General Manager Tom Henie said Wednesday.