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By GEORGE SNYDER
BEE STAFF WRITER
LAKE Ã¢â‚¬â€ Like most Labor Day weekends, law enforcement, lakeside residents and
those responsible for marine recreation here have their safety fingers crossed.
"(Tulloch Lake) is the smallest lake in Calaveras County and also the
most congested," Calaveras County sheriff's Capt. Clay Hawkins said. "That means
the potential for accidents is just that much greater."
weekends, as many as 200 boats and rooster-tailing jet skis roar past one
another in a blizzard of white wakes, shiny fiberglass and wave-skipping water
skiers on this two-square-mile gem on the Stanislaus River between Highway 108
X-shaped because of topography, Tulloch Lake has 1,260
surface acres, some of it in shallow arms that constrict recreational use.
By contrast, New Melones Reservoir, just upstream, provides 12,500
surface acres for boating and other water-based activities.
per square mile
Hawkins said midsummer survey flights have counted, for
example, 34 boats per square mile on Camanche Reservoir, 39 per square mile on
New Hogan Reservoir and 36 per square mile on New Melones Reservoir. At Tulloch
Lake, they've counted as many as 150 boats per square mile.
boats you got crammed together, the more potential there is for an accident,"
Hawkins said. "Last year we had no accidents, this year we have had three."
Some congestion is historical, as Tulloch Lake quickly became a
water-ski mecca after the dam was built in 1958. Its popularity was enhanced by
a building boom that began with the development of Copper Cove in 1969.
The construction of more than a half-dozen housing developments, as well
as commercial projects, continues today, with more in the planning stages.
Boating activity upsets anglers
Critics say development will
reduce the usable surface of the lake because its design includes building over
the water and adding dock space.
"With all of this new development, it
only means more boats on the water," said Connie Williams, president of the
Conner Estates Master Association and co-chair of the Lake Tulloch Alliance.
The alliance, made up of homeowners and others, would like to see more
control over development and protection of the lake's 55-mile shoreline,
particularly on the Calaveras side where building restrictions are less
stringent than neighboring Tuolumne County, Williams said.
concern," she said, "is the effect of more boats on the water. We have a
beautiful lake with lots of recreation and we want to make sure it's safe. A lot
of people moved here because of its beauty, and we want to keep it that way."
The heavy boat use, generally on weekends, limits fishing because the
noise drives fish into deep water, making them reluctant to bite.
on water is unclear
Ski boats also interfere with fishermen who are
anchored, drifting or slow trolling.
Although it is unclear what
environmental effect this has on the lake's water quality, the Tulloch Lake
Association has called for preserving its natural shoreline, including a
development buffer and the cessation of permits for seawalls or erosion
protection devices that do not protect that shoreline.
president of the Black Jack Bluffs homeowners association on the Tuolumne County
side of the lake, said new projects should have larger lots to reduce the number
"Say, if we have 2,000 homes and we see 200 boats on a busy
day, then if you put in 4,000 homes, how much more pressure is that? When does
it stop?" he asked.
Hackbarth, who said he has two sailboats and a
pontoon boat, added, "It gets so I don't go out on the lake on holidays
The Tri-Dam Project, which regulates dock space on the lake,
says there are 329 docks in front of single-family homes, often with two boats
attached, and 316 slips, which are common with planned housing developments.
Steve Felte, general manager of the Tri-Dam Project, said a recent
relicensing study found the lake's boating capacity to be about 125 vessels.
Little authority over public
He said part of the problem is that
Tulloch Lake, unlike New Melones, Camanche or Don Pedro reservoir, has intensive
private development on its shores.
Felte, a member of a Tulloch Lake
task force studying planning and congestion, said part of the licensing
obligation is to provide safe activities for private and public users.
"We want to encourage public access of the lake," he said, "but where is
the happy medium between private use, safety and public access? We can regulate
docks, but we have no real authority to regulate the public."
has two public boat-launching facilities, one at Tulloch Lake Resort on the
north end, the other at South Lake Tulloch R.V. Campground and Marina on the
Are more rules inevitable?
Launching fees at
Tulloch Lake Resort are $10 to $25 depending on the day, and $6 at the South
Lake Tulloch facility.
The south lake campground and marina are on
California Department of Fish and Game land leased to Tuolumne County, which
leases it to a concessionaire.
If some way isn't found to moderate the
boat traffic, Felte said, more regulations are inevitable.
talking," he said. "It's been real slow, but we're progressing."
staff writer George Snyder can be reached at 536-9005 or email@example.com.
dwellers unite to protect lifestyle
By Francis P. Garland
Published Monday, March 21, 2005
-- For a relatively small lake, Tulloch Reservoir fills several huge roles for
folks like Connie Williams.
The lake supplies drinking water for
Williams and other residents in the growing Copperopolis basin, and it affords
boaters and water skiers a handy playground.
It also provides a most attractive
backdrop for scores of homes, some of which are fetching prices in the high six
figures these days.
But as growth pressures continue to
trigger more development, some fear the lake's special qualities will diminish
-- and their lifestyles will follow suit.
That's why Williams and others have
united to form a group to protect water quality, recreation opportunities and
property values in the Tulloch area.
The new Lake Tulloch Alliance will
include representatives from six major homeowners associations that face similar
growth-related issues -- namely, how to allow development to continue without
compromising the lake.
Those involved in forming the
alliance stress they're not out to stop growth.
"No one is against more building.
That's the furthest thing from everyone's mind," said Williams, who moved to
Conner Estates nearly three years ago from Atlanta and now serves as president of its
"But we as a community are
interested in making sure that we have smart development and that developers
plan correctly, using the land resources they've purchased in a way that
complements the area and doesn't take away from the area."
Williams and others involved with
the alliance say that while growth is inevitable -- the proof is in the form of
proposed new developments like the 2,100-home Brunker Ranch -- the community
must recognize that the lake is a finite resource.
Irresponsible growth, they say, will
damage the ecology, property values, recreation opportunities -- indeed the
entire lakeside lifestyle.
"Obviously, there's going to be
growth," said Betsy Duncan, an area resident who attended the alliance's first
meeting and intends to go back for more. "That's a good thing -- I'm a real
estate agent. But we want to protect the integrity of the community and preserve
Carol Murphy, whose Stockton company manages
the six homeowners associations, said it makes sense for the groups to come
together and pursue common goals, such as increasing boating safety on the lake
and protecting water quality.
"We want to make sure we have some
protections in place so everyone can enjoy the lake -- and not just now," she
Residents and Tri Dam, a partnership
that operates the lake for the Oakdale and South San
Joaquin irrigation districts, are concerned that as the lake grows,
there will be more and more boating traffic -- and that could pose public safety
and water-quality problems.
"Tri Dam already is saying the lake
is overcrowded on certain weekends and during the holidays," said Yvette
Villeneuve-Ezell, president of the Copper Cove at Lake Tulloch Owners
Association. "If we have all these huge developments going up around it, it's
only going to tax the lake even more.
"We have to look at things from the
standpoint of healthful growth. There has to be some kind of control over the
development that's being planned around the lake."
Tri Dam officials have endorsed the
alliance concept. Steve Felte, Tri
Dam's general manager, said the federal government wants Tri Dam to work more
closely with local interests on issues pertaining to the lake, and the alliance
could fill that role.
While many are supportive of the
alliance, some with another group that has been working to map Copperopolis
growth in the form of a community plan, a sort of mini-general plan for the
area, are skeptical. Russ Thomas,
chairman of the Community Plan committee, said he's not sure the Lake Tulloch
Alliance is needed right now.
"We've got enough groups trying to
pull in one direction, and now this alliance comes along, and we don't know what
their motivations are," he said.
Thomas said he fears the alliance
arose from those who are unhappy with the shape the proposed community plan is
taking. If the plan allows more development in a certain area, he said, that
could mean more boats on the water, "and they're just deathly afraid that will
adversely affect them."
"They've got their boats and don't
want anyone else to have any."
Even some groups that have vowed to
join the alliance are concerned that some members could have a hidden agenda.
"But it would be wrong to be unduly
critical of the unknown," said Mike Gamerl, president of the Poker Flat Property
Owners Association. "Just as one would like to see objectivity within (the
alliance), certainly people standing by have to be objective and see what
Jack Cox, who lives near the lake
and has been involved in numerous issues there over the years, said Thomas'
depiction of those involved in the alliance is wrong.
"The alliance is trying to be a
positive voice, not the homeowners associations trying to pull up the
drawbridge," Cox said.
Williams said the group hopes to act
as an advisory voice to Calaveras County Supervisor Victoria Erickson, who
"Instead of 16 people calling her
and giving her 16 different things, we can go as a group and bring her
information that we feel is important for the growth and the care and the
feeding of the Copperopolis community," Williams said.
For information on the alliance,
contact Williams at (209) 785-5080.
* To reach Lode
Francis P. Garland, phone
provided on Tulloch
Copperopolis hits snag introducing long-awaited housing growth
By GARTH STAPLEY
Last Updated: May 9, 2005, 05:53:20 AM PDT
COPPEROPOLIS Ã¢â‚¬â€ The
fastest-growing area in one of California's fastest-growing counties is doing so
without a growth plan. Thirteen years ago,
people responding to a survey in this foothill town named managing growth as
their top priority. The idea of a growth plan went through fits and starts
before officials formed a committee in 1998.
In more than six
years since, several hundred homes have sprung up around nearby Lake Tulloch,
all without a growth plan and without a single environmental report. And
officials have approved 4,000 more.
The surge helped
boost Calaveras County to fourth-highest in the state in terms of percentage
growth from 2000 to 2004, at 13.3 percent.
Chairman Russ Thomas Ã¢â‚¬â€ a former Stanislaus County planning commissioner Ã¢â‚¬â€
announced at a meeting that he hoped that day to conclude work on the elusive
growth plan. That proved to be wishful thinking.
One of three people
attending their first meeting as committee members wanted more time to digest
what the committee had been doing for six years. The newcomers were appointed
because former members have financial stakes in the committee's proposals.
Sellman, Calaveras County interim planning director, refused Thursday to provide
public copies of materials the committee was using Ã¢â‚¬â€ even after audience members
asked that he comply with state law requiring that he share them.
After 2Ã‚Â½ hours of
trying to follow the committee's discussion with no reference point, a portion
of the meeting reserved for public comment was cut short because another group
had reserved the meeting hall.
Copperopolis point up just how hard it can be Ã¢â‚¬â€ anywhere Ã¢â‚¬â€ to reach consensus on
unrelated to Copperopolis, Stanislaus County Supervisor Jeff Grover said, "I
think everyone agrees that the way we've been doing growth is not good." He
recently embarked on a mission that could dramatically alter development
patterns by setting rigid urban limits around the nine cities in his county.
All cities by law
have some blueprint for growth. Many unincorporated towns develop similar
documents called community plans, like the one Copperopolis may be close to
Chairman Thomas and
others blame their 13-year wait on turnover in the county Planning Department,
which advises the committee.
"It's seemed very
much like we take three steps forward and two back," Thomas said in a recent
A growth plan might
have saved some headaches around picturesque Lake Tulloch, whose water-skiing,
jet-skiing and fishing have drawn valley folks since the reservoir was created
in 1958. Though some of the shoreline lies in Tuolumne County, Calaveras is home
to most of the houses and potential growth areas.
"I think we could
have done better," said Victoria Erickson, the Calaveras County supervisor
representing that area, who was elected in 2002. "Instead of planning section by
section, we could have looked at the whole lake."
Didn't expect banks of houses
Ralph Servidio, a
Realtor and former owner of the biggest grocery store in Copperopolis, said most
buildings around the lake when he arrived in 1991 were A-frame cabins or little
more than sheds.
"I don't think
anyone envisioned this," Servidio said, referring to a bank of multilevel homes
resembling a cityscape except for docks on the waterfront.
Order seemed to
arrive, Servidio said, with Castle and Cooke Inc., a multinational company that
bought nearby Saddle Creek Golf Course in 1999 and is building houses in the
area. Some people, though, fear that the firm's plan to bring 2,110 more homes,
plus two marinas and a hotel to a barren stretch of the northwest shore would
wreck the lake's recreational appeal.
Many remember when
water skiers could glide on the lake's northern reaches, where a steep hill
protects the surface from prevailing breezes. Speed restrictions now limit
travel to 5 mph along much of that stretch, mostly because the lake is crowded
with boats in the summer.
Still others are
less than crazy about the idea of a new road from Castle and Cooke's project,
known as Brunker Ranch, through Knights Ferry to Highway 108-120.
Though the road
appears in concept on a 2001 study Thomas' group commissioned, he recently said
that publicity on the idea has been blown out of proportion.
"There is nothing to
suggest anyone is anxious to develop that," he said. "But, it makes good sense
to have it started now because it could likely be an eventual build-out
Thomas also blamed
news reports for creating pressure that caused three committee members to
One, Bob Brunker, is
selling the property that Castle and Cooke wants for its huge project. The wife
of another is brokering the sale. A third owns property where developers want to
build stores near Copperopolis.
recommends zoning for land throughout the growth plan, among other duties. In
other words, all three might have profited from the committee's decisions.
None ever voted on
committee work dealing with areas where they owned property, Thomas said.
controversy brewed, some homeowners around the lake formed a group whose mission
includes checking the committee's work.
Alliance Chairwoman Connie Williams said her group brings together
representatives from each of the six homeowner associations ringing the lake.
They will publicly praise or criticize policies Thomas' committee recommends,
"This area is
getting ready to really burst with development," Williams said. "The right
controls weren't put in place to begin with. How many more homes can we handle
before the whole lake becomes a 5 mph zone?
"If we don't look
into this," she continued, "20 years from now the land will be totally raped by
developers who do whatever they want."
said she expects the alliance "will end up being very helpful to me."
But Thomas again
blamed media for stirring conflict resulting in the group's formation.
"It was a knee-jerk
reaction in many ways to those articles," he said. Of the alliance, Thomas said
its members "would just as soon that no other houses be built on the lake. They
have theirs and can't see any justification for building more."
that he plans to challenge Erickson in next year's election.
Sellman, the interim
planning director, refused Thursday to release public documents despite pleas
from audience members such as Bob Miller and Susan Larson. He said letting
people follow the committee's discussion Ã¢â‚¬â€ an impossible task without the
documents Ã¢â‚¬â€ would foster controversy, and some committee members agreed.
"We can't make
intelligent comments because we don't have the documents," Copperopolis resident
Betsy Duncan protested.
After checking with
the county's attorney Friday, Sellman reversed course and put the documents on
A working version of
the Copperopolis Community Plan and several supporting documents can be viewed
The Copperopolis Community Plan Committee is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. May
26 in the meeting hall at Black Creek Park.
staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
fees for Tulloch suggested
Published: July 28, 2005
By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
group working to protect Lake Tulloch from over-development is suggesting
charging boating fees on the seven-mile long reservoir.
Lake Tulloch Alliance Ã¢â‚¬â€ which includes homeowners, business owners and
homeowner associations along Tulloch's shores Ã¢â‚¬â€ has presented six proposals,
including the boat fee idea, to District 5 Calaveras County Supervisor Victoria
The alliance meets this afternoon to hear
"We'll hear from Supervisor Erickson
as to our next step to get our initiatives to the Board of Supervisors,"
alliance President Connie Williams said.
alliance is requesting a yearly fee be charged for all boats launched or moored
on the lake near Copperopolis.
Williams said it
would be up to supervisors, law enforcement and Tri-Dam Project, which manages
the lake, to work out specific details of such a fee. She added that alliance
members hope funds raised by the fee would go for boating safety education and
more law enforcement patrols on the waters.
said imposing such a fee is complicated, because the lake spans both Calaveras
and Tuolumne counties.
"Making each boat pay a
yearly fee to use the lake is one way of dealing with the situation," she said.
"It is one tool in the tool box, but it won't solve all the problems."
Problems on the 1,260-acre reservoir are
According to a 2003 Calaveras County
Sheriff's Department safety report, Tulloch has among the highest rates of
boating accidents, boating injuries and fatalities, and boats per square mile
compared to other lakes in the county.
Project manages Tulloch under a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory
Susan Larson, Tri-Dam Project Lake
Tulloch coordinator, said Tri-Dam officials have studied Bass Lake in Madera
County, which charges a fee based on watercraft engine size, as a possible
"It is something to be considered," she said,
pointing out that Bass and Tulloch lakes share some similarities, including
private homes and public marinas along the lakes' shores.
"At Bass Lake, the fee supports boating safety programs, boating classes
and enhanced law enforcement," she said. "The fee has been successful and
Larson said Tri-Dam and Erickson are
working with Tuolumne and Calaveras counties' sheriffs departments and boards of
supervisors to see if a fee would make sense for Lake Tulloch.
"But before we moved forward with such a program,
we'd hold public meetings where people could ask questions and make
suggestions," she said.
Williams emphasized that the
alliance is not against growth, but wants to preserve and protect Lake Tulloch
and its surrounding shoreline.
"Lake Tulloch is the
jewel of Copperopolis," she said. "That's what draws people and developers here.
We don't want to stop growth, but we want the county to implement the proper
ordinances so that future generations can continue to enjoy this beautiful lake