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Irvine Co. gives its piece of Irvine Lake to the county, reducing who negotiates to resume public access

The Irvine Co. has followed through on plans to transfer 29 acres it owns on the south shore of Irvine Lake to the county of Orange, but a dispute over what kinds of recreation to allow and who should profit from it must be resolved before the lake can reopen to the public.

The 750-acre, man-made lake has been closed to fishing and other on-land recreation since 2016, after the various parties involved were unable to reach an agreement on recreation rights and revenue. An Orange County Grand Jury report released last month criticized all agencies involved for failing the public by keeping the popular recreation spot fenced off.

The county’s acceptance of the deed to the 29 acres on Tuesday, June 11, may help smooth the way to a compromise. But the Serrano and Irvine Ranch water districts and the county – all of which claim some level of rights regarding the lake – must still work out who would pay for and oversee amenities for public recreation such as fishing and camping, whether to bring back boating, and how to divide revenue from an existing RV storage lot and any other income the lake property may generate.

The county taking over the property is “the first step in getting that lake open again,” Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner said Wednesday – something he hopes can happen this summer.

Serrano Water District General Manager Jerry Vilander wrote in an email that district officials are “excited” that the county has taken over the property, adding, “this simplifies the negotiations between the county and SWD.”

Wagner said he is meeting with water district officials to discuss remaining issues and expects it will come down to dollars.

Fishing would likely be first to rebound; boating was discontinued after drowning accidents in 2012 and 2015 increased liability concerns. The lake would have to be stocked.

The good news is the county is willing to pay for that “to find a way to get this resource back into the hands of the public,” Wagner said.

Source: Orange County Register

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