Re-Opening Irvine Lake: A Win-Win for Taxpayers and Outdoor Enthusiasts
Irvine Lake is the largest fresh water body in Orange County. Since 1941, the lake has provided the residents of Orange County with a unique opportunity for a variety of recreational activities. In 2014, The Irvine Company made public its intention to transfer certain land parcels it owned surrounding Irvine Lake to Orange County in perpetuity for the benefit of its residents. The land transfer triggered a series of negotiations among, primarily, Orange County Parks, Serrano Water District and Irvine Ranch Water District, seeking agreements on certain matters to move the action forward. Those negotiations stalled and in March 2016, Irvine Lake was closed to the public for fishing, boating and other water recreation. This closure has and continues to result in lost revenues for Orange County taxpayers in addition to lost recreation for its residents. The three public agencies involved in the future operations of Irvine Lake have not announced a plan for its reopening for recreation use since its closure in 2016. Without sufficient historical financial information from SWD, OC Parks cannot project future financial opportunities at Irvine Lake. Minimal effort to engage one another, a lack of creative proposals and slow responsiveness between OC Parks and the water districts have allowed negotiations to stall. Although not a party to any recreation rights, IRWD does have a right of approval over decisions affecting water use rights and water quality. Therefore, settling easement rights issues in a successor document to the 2003 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among SWD, IRWD and TIC is required prior to concluding negotiations on recreation rights. Parties expect to complete this in the first half of 2019. A master plan for recreational activities remains to be developed.