ContentsPutah and Cache: Clear Lake or Lypoyomi

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Lakeport to Rodman Slough

Pete Richerson and Scott Richerson

Stay on Main Street (which becomes Lakeshore Boulevard) through town. Five miles past the county library at the north end of town, take a right at the Nice/Lucerne Cutoff Road. About a mile down the Cutoff Road, stop on the generous shoulder on the west side of Rodman Slough, just before the bridge. Notice the utility pole crosstree with the osprey nest on it. Utility poles are very attractive to osprey for nest platforms, but building nests there is of course very hazardous to the osprey and to reliable electrical service. PG&E's solution is to put up a slightly taller pole next to the one the osprey have selected. The birds hate not to have their nest on the highest place available, and obligingly move it to the new pole. If only all human-wildlife conflicts had such an elegant solution!

You are likely to meet fishermen along Rodman. They are after channel catfish and largemouth bass, both introduced. In former years bluegill and crappie were abundant and the objective of many anglers. According to data collected by Vector Control, these species have slowly declined over the last few decades as largemouth bass have become more abundant. The causes of these population shifts are difficult to explain. The most economically important fishery is now the competitive tournament fishery for largemouth bass. On many weekends even in winter you will see the expensive, specialized tournament boats that probe Rodman Slough (and virtually every other likely spot around the lake). Loaded with powerful motors, sophisticated sonar fish-finders, a dozen or more rods, and big tackle boxes crammed with a colorful and sometimes improbable looking array of artificial lures, two-person (almost always men) teams compete for prizes given for the largest and heaviest fish. Because this is a catch-and-release fishery, all fish are returned to the lake after weigh-in. Clear Lake hosts perhaps 20 tournaments a year, and in good years, bass are taken at Clear Lake at twice the rate of other locations in the region.

About half of the total stream inflow into Clear Lake comes through Rodman Slough. Middle and Clover Creeks drain the high country to the north of the lake. Scotts Creek, with headwaters west of Lakeport, drains a large area to the west and northwest. Historically these streams fed two large wetlands, Tule Lake (600 acres) and Robinson Lake (2,000 acres) at the northwest end of the lake. If you cross the bridge and look north, you will see the southern part of the former Robinson Lake.

Lake County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are in the design phase of a wetland restoration project for Robinson Lake. In addition to holding back nutrients, the restored wetlands will be a haven for wildlife populations. Many landowners in the reclamation area will be "willing sellers" because their homes are threatened by flooding. The levees of the reclamation area have sunk as much as 3 or 4 feet since their construction in the 1920s. Much like the islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, these levees are made of dredged organic muds, which were put on top of the deep soft sediments that underlie the whole area. With no stable foundation or internal cohesion, the materials of the levees are gradually seeking their natural state-flat. Every high-water year brings the threat of a disastrous breach of the levee system. Only the heroic effort of Flood Control personnel in the winter of 1997-1998 prevented the overtopping of the cross levee in the reclaimed portion of Robinson Lake. Currently the maintenance bill for the system runs several times the tax payments by landowners, and if the levees are breached in a flood, no agency is likely to step forward with funds for repairs. "Dereclamation" seems to offer benefits for the local ecosystem and a way out of a financially perilous situation for a number of local residents.

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