Saving Van Norden Lake – Motives

(How ironic is this that we are getting this news during National Wetlands month?)

You have probably seen the announcements from the Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT) of their plan to “restore Van Norden Meadow”. As readers of this site, I suspect that you might be a little confused after reading our information and then TDLT’s rationale. What we have here is a grade A example of public relations SPIN.

Artic Swans rest in Van Norden Lake on their way south

Artic Swans rest in Van Norden Lake on their way south

TDLT is trying to take the position that they are restoring Van Norden Meadow. They are also trying to say that they couldn’t get the water rights to maintain a lake of 50 acre-ft. I have already addressed both of these arguments in previous posts as being red herrings. I am not going to rehash the details here again (please read the details for yourself here and here). The question of course is who do you believe?  I know whenever I am presented with a controversy in which arguments are diametrically opposed and both seem to sound plausible that I like to examine the motives of the participants. Let’s take a peek.

Our motives are pretty simple. We know there is a stable vibrant lake and wetland habitat that has existed in the Summit Valley for almost 40 years. The unique habitat is a rich source of bio-diversity in the valley.  Preserving this valuable habitat should be a top priority that would be worth the relatively small investment of repairing the dam and obtaining the water rights would incur. The only enrichment we are after is the the opportunity for all of us to enjoy this wonderful natural resource.

Now before we discuss the motives of TDLT, let me reiterate that we have been long time supporters of TDLT and are still strong supporters of most of the good works that they do. However  (you knew there had to be a however), we believe that in the case of the Summit Valley, TDLT has made a serious mistake by putting finances in front of preservation. Let’s examine the facts.

  • When raising the funds for the acquisition of the Royal Gorge property, TDLT supported the preservation of the lake.
  • TDLT repeatedly assured many of us in meetings and personal communications that they were sympathetic to the preservation of the lake and wetlands even in a reduced capacity.
  • And finally the compelling motive. TDLT completely reversed their position when the U.S. Forest Service threatened to cancel the purchase of the Summit Valley property for approximately $2 million, if the lake was not removed. It was only after this reversal that TDLT claimed that they couldn’t get water rights, and switched the rhetoric from “preservation” to “restoration”. Never mind that there is no real need for restoration, the fact that TDLT never mentions that over 100 acres of lake and wetlands will be destroyed in this “restoration” speaks volumes about how they are trying to spin this. I can understand that they are trying to make some lemonade, but please don’t try and make us drink it.

Now please don’t think that we are being naive here. We are very aware that for most things money makes “the world go round”. However, we all put that to the side when we contributed millions to acquiring the land in the first place. In fact we all gave even more than TDLT needed to make the acquisition. Now we are talking about sacrificing the lake and wetlands for a $2 million transaction, a little over 10% of what the whole acquisition will cost. You would like to think that the goal of preservation in Summit Valley is above financial motivation, but unfortunately, TDLT has chosen “poorly”.

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