NRWMAC Press Release


Contact: Chuck Larson
Phone: 805.591.4738

NRWMAC engages again with Monterey County

PASO ROBLES, CALIFORNIA — February 13, 2023 — Nacimiento Regional Water Management Advisory Committee (NRWMAC) once again has stepped up to challenge Monterey County and its various other agencies, including the Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA), for mismanaging Lake Nacimiento and the continued erosion of recreational rights on the lake and surrounding area.

The latest engagement has begun over alignment of the MCWRA proposed InterLake Tunnel Project and NRWMAC’s primary objectives: (1) to improve water management and, (2) resolve tunnel issues that directly affect boaters, sport enthusiasts, anglers, agriculture, property owners, and the conservation of lake species.

Lake Nacimiento is an 18-mile (29 km) long lake on the Nacimiento River in northern San Luis Obispo County, California. The lake contains many arms including Snake Creek, Dip Creek, Las Tablas Creek, and Franklin Creek. If you view Lake Nacimiento from above, you will observe a striking resemblance to a dragon created by the positions of these arms. Not surprisingly, the lake has been known as the “Dragon Lake” for as long as anyone can remember, and is adored by all who come in contact with it.

Lake Nacimiento is the only lake in the state with a solid population of the aggressive white bass, and with cooler water temperatures, they are often found right at the surface and can provide fast action. Beautiful scenery meets excellent fishing at this popular destination.

Monterey County has proposed building an inter-lake tunnel (known as, The Interlake Tunnel Project). The tunnel would divert water from Lake Nacimiento into Lake San Antonio in an effort to capture and retain more water during the wet seasons for use in the dry ones. The county proposal calls for the tunnel to be built at a lake elevation of 745 feet, which would require a water level of 760 feet before transferring water. NRWMAC wants the tunnel to be built at a lake elevation of 770 feet, which would require the lake to be at a water level of 785 feet before transferring water. We have also suggested using a larger 12-foot diameter tunnel instead of the 10-foot tunnel, as proposed by MCWRA, to provide faster water transfers as needed.

While NRWMAC believes that the Interlake Tunnel Project could be a good resource for the lake and its water management, NRWMAC’S main question about its construction is this: Why does MCWRA want the tunnel to be at such a low water level?

Several hydrologist studies have shown that if the objective is to capture the 27,000 to 35,000 acre-feet of potential annual spill, it can be accomplished with the tunnel situated at the higher elevation. There appears to be no valid reason for transferring water to Lake San Antonio when Lake Nacimiento is at 760 ft (50% capacity).

Additionally, NRWMAC asserts that an operational agreement that clearly outlines the rules of operation of the lakes, and specifically for the tunnel, needs to be approved by all parties and in place prior to approval and construction of the tunnel. NRWMAC must be certain that new operational rules protect Lake Nacimiento from unnecessary transfers. NRWMAC supports the Interlake Tunnel Project as long as the transfers and releases are beneficial to proper water management and recreation at Lake Nacimiento.

On January 20, 2023, Monterey County released a draft of the Environmental Impact Report (2,600 pages!), with a shorter than normal comment period of only forty-eight days, ending March 10, 2023. NRWMAC asserts that the comment period is far too short to properly review and submit comments, and has officially requested the comment period be extended to “sixty (60) days” per the California Code Regulations.

There are still too many unresolved questions to rush the tunnel project through the vetting process — we need, and should have, answers from Monterey County concerning:
• The effects and legality of having white bass at San Antonio.
• The potential effects of a cross infection of the quagga mussel, and the possible detrimental ramifications to one or both lakes.
• Methods to recover from potential well or ground water intrusion contamination, and the effects from drilling.
• Issues involving failed drilling tests due to poor geological conditions.
• The taking of land by eminent domain (the right of government to take private property).
• The effects of the tunnel on San Luis Obispo County lake property owners who don’t have voting rights on issues concerning the lake.
• The lack of an operational plan for exact tunnel water releases.
• The lack of an earthquake or disaster plan for the tunnel in the event of rupture or heavy damage.
• The lack of transparent monitoring systems, such as those used by the United States Geological Survey or other methods that provide the public with accurate reports on water transfers.
• Monterey County’s oft-repeated pattern of California state water contract violations and broken promises to the people who treasure and enjoy Lake Nacimiento.

For over thirty years, NRWMAC has been the voice that represents property owners, visitors, and sport enthusiasts who enjoy Lake Nacimiento. Our overriding goal is to maximize the water level in Lake Nacimiento throughout the spring and summer months for recreation, agriculture, fish, and wildlife. NRWMAC holds one seat on the Monterey County Water Resource Agency Reservoir Operation Committee (Res Ops). The Res Ops committee meets monthly in Salinas, California and advises MCWRA, which controls the outflows of water from Lake Nacimiento and, consequently, its elevations.

The year 2023 represents NRWMAC’s fifth year of litigation against Monterey County and their agencies, which manage, or rather, mismanage Lake Nacimiento. Nevertheless, the effort continues and NRWMAC will not give up or give in until our constituents’ recreation rights are honored and the water in the lake is properly managed.

NRWMAC is a nonprofit organization funded solely by donations. The NRWMAC Board of Directors consists of representatives from communities around the lake. The directors bring input from their constituents to monthly NRWMAC board meetings and relay up-to-date information on issues, activities, and events happening within NRWMAC and MCWRA via newsletter and special edition updates. NRWMAC’s board of directors are all volunteers and receive no compensation.

For more information about NRWMAC’s effort to “Save the Dragon,” please visit:

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Thank you for your interest in Lake Nacimiento — the Dragon Lake.