The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that it will take no action on a proposal to close a bypass pipe in a concrete plug that blocks a failed irrigation tunnel at Lassen County’s Eagle Lake.
Dayne Barron, manager of the Eagle Lake Field Office, said that reviews of earlier environmental documents and consultations with various agencies and experts have revealed no new information that would cause reconsideration of a 1985 decision to permanently plug the Bly Tunnel and install the bypass pipe.
“We have worked very carefully on this review since late 2008, when we began hearing concerns about the effect of the tunnel plug bypass on the level of Eagle Lake,” Barron said. “We concluded that outflow from the Bly Tunnel bypass is an accumulation of groundwater, including Eagle Lake seepage, and that closing the bypass pipe would have no effect on Eagle Lake outflow.”
Additionally, Barron noted, water from Willow Creek, through which Bly Tunnel water flows, supports a riparian ecosystem, including fish and plant species, wetlands, and wildlife resources.
The BLM determination and its rationale are contained in a Feb. 22 letter to the California Water Resources Control Board, Division of Water Rights. The BLM provided the letter in response to the citizen complaints filed with the state board.
Complainants expressed concern that continued flow through the bypass was contributing to declining lake levels.
“Reconsideration of the previous decision by this office was not taken lightly,” Barron stated in the letter. “With approximately 40 percent of the lakeshore public lands, the BLM has a large stake in the lake’s water quality and scenic values, including retention of the natural setting of the lakeshore.
“The 1985 decision to place a pipe through the plug was based on an understanding of water rights, previous tunnel flows and the hydrology of natural outflow,” he continued. “The significant degree of due process associated with that decision is well documented.”
The text of the letter to the water board is available at www.blm.gov/ca/eaglelake, along with a 1985 addendum of the environmental assessment on the Bly Tunnel plug project, and a water inflow/outflow analysis completed for Eagle Lake.