Cloudy waters in Irvine Lake’s future

The declining Irvine Lake as of February 25. (Jacob Tatham/Lariat)

The declining Irvine Lake as of Feb. 25. (Jacob Tatham/Lariat)

The run down, dilapidated Irvine Lake is set to be temporarily closed, but a return to glory may be imminent.

Irvine Lake has been a popular reservoir for fishing, boating, camping and public events in Santiago Canyon since 1941. However today, insurance difficulties and the severity of the drought have deteriorated it’s condition.

Circumstances have only gotten worse after the 2012 drowning of Juan Flores and Thomas Rivera followed by the 2015 drowning of Clarence William Brumfeld. The lifejacket controversy and lawsuits surrounding their deaths resulted in a recent prohibition of boating. Now the entirety of the lake’s fishing attraction may be stripped by the end of the month as well.

As it stands now, the Irvine Company plans to transfer it’s 75 percent share of recreational rights over to Orange County. The complication involves the Serrano Water District owning the other 25 percent, giving them the rights to fishing, boating and camping regulation.

“The County is working with the Irvine Company to take over all recreation opportunities on Irvine Lake, including fishing, with the intent to enhance and expand them for boaters and other users,” said Jean Pasco, the communications manager for Orange County.

Although the county’s negotiations with SWD are still up in the air, a pending offer is in the works that may bring life to the dying lake.

Serrano has stated that they are open to a deal that will eventually transfer their 25 percent share over to the county, giving OC full control of the property and it’s operations. In return, SWD wants to retain their RV storage they have on the land as well as receiving a share of the annual income that the county takes in from the lake.

For the time being however, no such settlement has been agreed upon and the revenue and popularity of Irvine Lake is seeing a downward trend. On top of this, the drought has brought the lake to it’s lowest water levels ever according to Serrano’s general manager, Jerry Vilander.

Because of these conditions, Irvine Lake is set to be closed until the deal is made and drought’s effects improve considerably. On Feb. 23, the staff of the lake was cut down from 27 to three in order to accommodate for the lack of activity they have been receiving.

“County staff still hopes to be able to reach a mutually satisfactory solution with the water district regarding its 25 percent recreation rights which would be brought for consideration to the Board of Supervisors,” Pasco said regarding any progress in negotiations.

The immediate future of Irvine Lake may be seeing some gloomy days, but Orange County has firmly expressed determination to restore with a long-term plan. Only time will tell if the lake will become the outdoor hot spot it once was.

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