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... Read more
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. Read less
Irvine, CA ( Local)
May 25, 2019
Submitted by: ocgrandjury

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Orange County Grand Jury
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Orange County Grand Jury
suggested a solution
5 months ago
edited the project details
5 months ago
edited the project details
5 months ago
edited the project details
5 months ago
edited the project details
5 months ago
edited the project details
5 months ago
edited the project details
5 months ago
edited the project details
5 months ago

Orange County Grand Jury

OC Grand Jury
May 13, 2019

If an impasse still exists between SWD and OC Parks on basic terms of water-based recreation rights the parties should use a neutral outside resource such as solution focused good faith mediation by September 30, 2019, to achieve resolution.

If an impasse still exists between SWD and OC Parks on basic terms of water-based... Read more

May 13, 2019

If an impasse still exists between SWD and OC Parks on basic terms of water-based recreation rights the parties should use a neutral outside resource such as solution focused good faith mediation by September 30, 2019, to achieve resolution.

If an impasse still exists between SWD and OC Parks on basic terms of water-based recreation rights OC Parks should, by September 30, 2019, request from TIC a separation of those rights described in the IOD from the remaining road parcels, easements and Recreation Land Parcel and a transfer of all but the water recreation rights to OC Parks.

By September 30, 2019, SWD should provide full financial disclosure of historical operating information for water-based recreational activity, at a minimum for the period 2011-2016, in sufficient detail to allow OC Parks to evaluate any recreation rights buyout offer or other specific management proposal. Absent such information, SWD and OC Parks should negotiate and present to their respective governing bodies a management agreement to continue operating water-based recreation at Irvine Lake and share revenue, expenses and net profits.

If by December 31, 2019 resolution has not been reached as to the reopening of Irvine Lake for water recreation, staff for SWD, IRWD, and OC Parks should post on their respective websites and submit to their governing body for discussion in a public meeting their perspective as to the obstacles to reopening the lake and what plan they have to resolve the issue.

By December 31, 2019, SWD, IRWD and OC Parks should explore the economic feasibility of establishing and maintaining Irvine Lake at a minimum water level based on expected income and other potential cost offsets.

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Orange County Grand Jury

OC Grand Jury
May 13, 2019

By March 31, 2020, once recreation rights are determined, OC Parks should hold open public planning meetings to address possible uses and activities, and their location at Irvine Lake, that result in the development of a multi-year Recreational Master Plan. This planning would include examining other public/private models within... Read more

May 13, 2019

By March 31, 2020, once recreation rights are determined, OC Parks should hold open public planning meetings to address possible uses and activities, and their location at Irvine Lake, that result in the development of a multi-year Recreational Master Plan. This planning would include examining other public/private models within Orange County and Southern California for covering future capital costs and minimizing any liability associated with boating. This also would include general cost benefit or financial feasibility analysis for the recreational uses under consideration. 

Future planning activities and documents typically would involve public focus groups and interviews with interested stakeholders. Issues could include the types and location of land-based recreation given the limited land areas involved, access to the lake and connecting roads. Planners could identify locations for future expansion opportunities. Operational models for recreation other than direct management by OC Parks could include public/private partnership or leases that would reduce needed public investment and provide business opportunities for local business people. Restrictions governing permitted activities on or near the water, based on the need for preservation of water quality, would prohibit certain recreation. Likewise, concerns for public safety and operator liability related to past boating operations at Irvine Lake (speed boating, private boating, or boating rentals) will need to be considered. 

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Grand jury slams government agencies for shuttering Irvine Lake

- Orange County Register