Silverwood dam closed to all access by Department of Water Resources
By JIM MATTHEWS
Citing over two decades of vandalism, theft, and concerns about dam safety, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) closed the Silverwood Lake dam to all fishing and other public access early this past week. The dam is now fenced off, including from boating anglers, and violators will be cited.
That’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
While the DWR claims its intent to close to dam was announced with public notices and signage put up in August of last year, allowing for time for public comment on the closure, most anglers and other public users did not know about the closure until the fencing and signs went up this past week.
Historically, the face of the dam was completely open to anglers and other users, with vehicle parking even allowed on the dam. Over the years, the parking area was restricted to a smaller area, and then moved off the dam entirely to a parking area adjacent to the dam. The parking area, which is used as a staging area or hikers walking local trails and off-highway vehicle riders, will remain open, according to Lauren Bisnett with the DWR’s information office.
“One of the biggest concerns was that vandals were rearranging the rip-rap on the face of the dam, exposing the embankment [beneath] to erosion,” said Bisnett. She said this erosion caused by wave action could impact the safety of the dam.
Bisnett also said that theft and damage to important instruments used to monitor the safety and performance of the dam had become a serious problem. Copper cable was even stolen from the dam’s tower. Anglers complained that all of these items were already inside closed areas on the dam, so the closure only excluded the legal users.
Graffiti, break-ins of cars in the parking lot, and trash accumulation were also cited as reasons for the closure, and the dam’s location made enforcement of the problems difficult for both the county and state parks. Bisnett said all of these issues have become progressively worse since the DWR first starting talking about a dam closure in 1996.
Bisnett was unaware of any joint or coordinated enforcement efforts to try to reduce the problems before the closure was put in place. There also had not been an education program put in place so anglers (or other visitors) didn’t disturb the rip-rap. And there had not been any press release on the closure or a concerted public effort to get feedback from those most affected by the closure.
After the debacle at Oroville Dam this past year, all of the regulatory agencies have become hyper-sensitive to anything that might be considered a dam safety issue, and the DWR finally decided to solve all the problems at the dam by closing it. Mostly without any consultation with those most affected.
Anglers felt blindsided by the move. The dam is a popular fishing spot. Because Lake Silverwood is open to 24-hour fishing, many anglers would fish at night off the dam because it was one of the few places where you could access the lake easily for night fishing. The Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area day-use areas are closed to use after 7 p.m. in the evening (later in the summer), requiring anglers walk into the lake or camp at the campground if they want to night fish.
Most anglers found out about the closure when there was a short post and photo of the new closure sign on the recreation area’s Facebook page on Monday, and this post was shared widely across social media.
Bisnett said that only four comments were received from the public after the public notice was published a local newspaper and signs went up talking about the change last August – and only one of those was from an angler. That alone would suggest that no one knew about the proposed closure of the dam.
Closing the dam hardly seems like a solution to any of the problems cited by the DWR, especially when other solutions where never tried. Bottom line: The dam closure just makes bureaucrats lives’ easier and excludes anglers from a popular fishing spot.
Bisnett encouraged anglers with an opinion on the matter and suggestions on how to solve the problems without keeping the dam closed, to call her at 916-653-7563 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
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