Hopes to build at
Tulloch Lake stir an outcry
By GARTH STAPLEY
Last Updated: February 24, 2005,
04:00:01 AM PST
People in Stanislaus
County could find it much easier to
water ski, fish or even live at Tulloch Lake if developers build a new road
connecting a vision for a massive subdivision to Highway 108-120.
But emerging plans for 2,110 homes, two marinas and a
hotel on a barren stretch of the lake's northwest shore are drawing criticism
from people who say more boats would sink the area's recreational appeal.
Still others say the road could ruin picturesque
Knights Ferry and further choke traffic on the increasingly busy highway linking
Modesto and Sonora.
Castle and Cooke Inc., which bought Saddle Creek Golf
Course at nearby Copperopolis in 1999 and is building homes at other spots near
Tulloch Lake, hopes to develop a hotel, bungalows and villas along 2½ miles of
waterfront north of the reservoir's dam.
The community would stretch southwest over 3,778
acres, or about two-thirds of the way to Goodwin Dam on the wild north shore of
"We're used to doing water homes," said Dave Haley,
the firm's development director for Calaveras County projects. His company, he said, is
buying the expanse from landowner Bob Brunker and hasn't decided whether to come
up with a name other than Brunker Ranch.
To solve the problem of recreational overcrowding on
Lake, Castle and Cooke
favors a controversial step: restricting vessel access to improve conditions for
all users, Haley said.
Highway 4, connecting nearby Copperopolis to Stockton, would bear the
brunt of increased vehicle traffic, Haley said. But he acknowledged the
long-term idea of another road from Tulloch Lake through Knights Ferry and said Castle
and Cooke would design it "in case that happens."
Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O'Brien, who
represents that portion of the county, said, "No way."
People who cherish the sleepy atmosphere in Knights
Ferry, known for its covered bridge reminiscent of a country lane, shouldn't
have to endure thousands of cars chugging from Brunker Ranch each day, O'Brien
"It's completely unreasonable," he said. "The traffic
is not coming from Knights Ferry. Why should the residents put up with it?"
Betty Rogers, who bought a home there four decades
ago, said, "They will have a battle over that, I'll tell you that much."
It would be naive to think that Castle and Cooke hopes
to build such a huge community without tapping Modesto's nearby labor market for potential
commuters, said Lee Shearer of Knights Ferry.
But the influence of O'Brien and other policy-makers
in Stanislaus County may be limited to the new road, because all the
homes would be built in Calaveras County.
Too crowded to
Erickson, the supervisor who
represents that part of Calaveras County, said she is more concerned with
the lake's overuse.
"I think we need to look at the fact that the more
houses we build and the more docks we put in, the more people are going to be on
the lake," Erickson said. "It's very, very crowded."
Tri-Dam, the irrigation agency that owns the lake,
determined in a study that it can handle about 110 vessels at a given time. But
the agency has counted upward of 170 on busy summer weekends and once resorted
to a moratorium on new docks.
Tri-Dam directors have recommended rules permitting
one new slip, or boat tie-up space, per 200 feet of shoreline for new projects,
executive director Steve Felte said. That would provide Brunker Ranch with about
But Castle and Cooke would prefer two marinas, one
with 15 to 20 slips and the other with 80 to 100, Haley said.
That would make an already crowded lake unbearable,
said Jack Cox, a founder of the Lake Tulloch Homeowners Federation.
"It will basically destroy Lake Tulloch as a recreation area and natural
resource, period," said Cox, a longtime advocate for an elusive regional
planning approach for the small lake.
Tulloch Lake holds 67,000 acre-feet
of water compared with 2.4 million acre-feet at nearby New Melones Reservoir,
according to the state Department of Water Resources.
"They're talking about thousands more people and more
pressure, and this lake can't handle it."
Haley agreed that other Tulloch developments have been
poorly planned and said his firm "will do a better job" with Brunker Ranch. He
said he intends to have an environmental impact report ready for public review
in three to five months.
Castle and Cooke have shared their vision with
County's interim planning
director, Haley said, but have yet to submit formal plans.
Restricting access to the lake would guarantee that it
never would become overcrowded, Haley said. His firm favors the idea of charging
annual or per-launch fees which could pay for increased patrol.
Patrolling by Tuolumne and Calaveras sheriff's deputies is mostly
restricted to busy weekends, Felte said.
But ultimate approval for new docks would rest with a
federal agency, Felte said. People will get a chance to weigh in during public
review periods, he said.
"Unfortunately, you get opposition to everything,"
Haley said. "We're trying to get ahead of the curve and do good planning."
Bee staff writer Garth
Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or email@example.com