In early October, members of the Mosquito Volunteer Firefighters Association and the Georgetown and El Dorado Resource Conservation districts put the finishing touch to a two-year-long project. Finnon Lake, south of Georgetown, was restocked with fish after seismic studies by the California State Division of Safety deemed that the embankment for the lake and dam were unsafe.
The lake, which was originally built in 1905, required a dam rebuild and bridge replacement since 1997, due to the seismic studies. Taking out the old dredge-tailing dam would have been quite an ordeal, as the original dam went under the restaurant located on the property, which was purchased by the MVFA from the state for $1 back in 1997. To avoid tearing down the restaurant, the dam was moved.
With assistance from Mark Egbert, general manager of the Georgetown and El Dorado Resource Conservation districts, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and the El Dorado Water Agency, the community was able to obtain $760,000 in 2011 and begin reconstruction of the dam. While the project seems a lengthy one, most of the “hard” work was accomplished in seven months. Since the reconstruction of the dam was unconventional, Egbert along with the construction crew of Doug Veerkamp and engineering firm of John Youngdahl, made sure at every juncture that the state would find everything in place at the time of all inspections.
“The state thinks this is a small budget for a project of this size,” said Egbert, adding that 200,000 square feet of dirt was moved. “This has been a destination for people to come fish, camp and swim for many years, and we were able to get the job done.”
The project began back in July 2011 and has become a beacon in the community, as the lake itself is a source of pride and utility.
“The lake is an economic driver and supports the fire department,” said Egbert. “(Cal Fire) used water from the lake during the Kelsey Fire in 1994. The level of the lake dropped 20 feet per day.”
Operating at approximately 20 acre feet since 1997, the lake maximizes out at 518 acre feet. On the day of the restocking the lake was at 50 acre feet. Its maximum depth is at 52 feet.
Before the lake was drained to reconstruct the dam, fish, turtles and crayfish were “rescued” and placed in a coffer dam. As the lake water level rose, the animals spread out throughout the rest of the lake.
The most recent stocking was of red-eared sunfish, but the lake also harbors bluegill, trout and bass. “We created topographical and structural habitat for the fish,” said Egbert. This was the first live fish stocking since the dam was completed and the first step in generating more fish into the lake.
Along with the purchase of 29 aquacribs, floating devices made of plastic in which the fish can hide, habitat development for the project includes a build up of rock “walls” on the lake bottom to assist in the protection of the fish during spawning.
Eighteen hundred fingerlings from Fresh Water Fisheries in Elk Grove, a certified aquaculturist, were released into the lake on Oct. 2, and the future of fishing in the lake secured. According to Egbert, the certified aquaculturist was required to ensure that pathogens were not introduced into the lake via the fish. Fishing in the lake is expected to resume in the spring of 2014.