MWD Receives $200,000 from State

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Article written by Katherine Davis-Young of the Big Bear Grizzly.

State Funding Helps MWD in Quagga Fight

Quagga mussels and their relatives, zebra mussels, have made their way into 29 US states since the 1980s. That includes dozens of waterways in Southern California. But the invasive mollusks have not found their way into Big Bear Lake. The Big Bear Municipal Water District wants to keep it that way.

In April, the district was awarded a $200,000 grant from the State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways to go toward quagga control programs.

“When this program first came out everyone said, ‘you’ll never keep (quagga mussels) out,’” said MWD General Manager Mike Stephenson. “I said, ‘we’ll do 100 percent or we’ll do nothing.’ The board voted to do 100 percent.”

The grant will come as a big help, Stephenson said. The district plans to use the money on some new equipment like a mechanical arm to keep vehicles out of the East Boat Launch during unmanned hours. That addition will be added in 2016. Stephenson said the district also plans to put in some improvements like a better decontamination station at the West Boat Launch.

“It’s in order to be efficient with boaters so they get in and out as quickly as possible,” Stephenson said, adding the MWD still wants boaters to have an enjoyable time but needs to be extra cautious to prevent infestation.

The biggest change, Stephenson said, is that the grant has allowed MWD to hire some extra seasonal employees this year. The district used to employ three people to help with inspections, decontamination and permits. This year there are 10 people doing that work.

“(Quagga mussels) have really made it difficult,” Stephenson said. “(Ramp attendants) used to leave for the day at 3 p.m., now you have to have someone standing there at all times.”

Those additional employee hours add up quickly for the district. The work is important though, Stephenson said. Looking for quaggas requires a thorough inspection.

“There are a lot of places you wouldn’t think to look,” Stephenson said. “Boats go to Lake Mead and the whole bottom of that lake is covered in quaggas. They put the anchor down, pull it up, put it in a warm locker and viable quaggas will last in there for weeks.”

It only takes two of the mussels to create a huge infestation, Stephenson said. The small, striped mussels, native to Eastern Europe, are extremely hardy and can reproduce rapidly in a variety of habitats.

In lakes and waterways where the mussels have appeared, they have been known to disturb the balance of native ecosystems. They compete with small fish for food and resources, alter the chemical balance of the water and have even been known to contribute to botulism poisoning among aquatic birds, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The ecological impact is only one of the concerns raised by the mussels, Stephenson said. The mussels, which settle in large groups and cling to a variety of surfaces, can clog pipes. In Big Bear Lake that could mean damaging the dam or destroying the piping system that allows the ski resorts to make snow from lake water.

Recreation could also be affected, Stephenson said. “People don’t want to leave boats in the lake if they know there are mussels in there.”

Stephenson said the threat is very real since many boaters take their vessels from one lake to the next.

“Every year we catch half a dozen vessels with viable mussels on them,” Stephenson said. That estimate is only a portion of the issue. The MWD boat launches represent only a fraction of boats going into the lake, and Stephenson said Big Bear Lake’s marinas have been great partners to the district in helping fight off infestation. Many marina employees even come to the MWD for special quagga inspection training, he said.

The public is largely cooperative with the effort, too, Stephenson said. “I think most people already know this is important,” Stephenson said. “The hard part is to convince the last 5 percent to care.”

Stephenson said the new grant will help in those efforts. He said he also plans to apply for more funding next year.

“We’ll continue to fight as hard as we can. We’re not giving up,” Stephenson said.

For more information on the MWD’s quagga efforts, visit www.bbmwd.com/quagga-mussel-education.

MWD Prepares to Chemically Treat Big Bear Lake

Written by Katherine Davis-Young of the Big Bear Grizzly.

The Big Bear Lake Municipal Water District board of directors approved a $772,800 project May 7 to begin treating Big Bear Lake with alum.

The project is intended to improve the health of the lake and to meet total maximum daily load standards for pollutants in a body of water as defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The ongoing drought has caused lake levels to drop, and as a result, the chemical balance of the water has changed. The alum will counteract rising levels of phosphorus in the lake water.

Some of the phosphorus is naturally occurring and some comes from runoff from the surrounding community. High levels of phosphorus can contribute to increased chlorophyll or algae. Alum has been used in lakes since the 1970s as a phosphorus treatment.

“(Alum) is used in every drinking water plant,” MWD General Manager Mike Stephenson said. “It’s basically Maalox.”

MWD will spend $400,000 on the project and San Bernardino County and the city of Big Bear Lake will contribute $350,000. Washington-based lake treatment company Aquatechnex will treat the deepest portion of Big Bear Lake, a 420-acre area at the lake’s west end, with about 600,000 gallons of alum.

This is not the first time Big Bear Lake has been treated with alum. In 2004, during another serious drought, the lake dipped as low as 17 feet down from full. MWD treated the lake with 700,000 gallons of alum. The alum did its job, but 2005 brought heavy rain. Stephenson said that caused pollution and runoff to make its way back into the lake. That experience made this proposal a complicated decision for the board. They want to see the lake fill up but they also want to spend their money wisely.

Board member Bob Ludecke said in an April workshop discussing the project, “We’re basically going to spend three quarters of a million dollars then pray that it’s a bust.”

Board president Maryann Lewis said the project would likely be a success. “Unless we have a monster weather event, we’re going to see years of benefit,” she said.

When the board approved the project, Stephenson also reassured the board that the treatment is necessary. “We need to get alum in the water before we start seeing elevated chlorophyll numbers. We need to act quickly,” he said.

Aquatechnex will begin treating the lake in mid May. Stephenson said onlookers can expect to see cloudy water when the treatment is taking place, but when it’s done the lake should look a little clearer.

The Lake Officially Opens April 1st!

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The lake officially opens April 1st….below is a quick article from Kathie Portie of the Big Bear Grizzly….the Marinas are ready!

Marinas Ready to Set Sail

Spring is here and the lake is waking up. Temperatures are rising and the fish are starting to move. The Big Bear Municipal Water District is getting ready for anglers and boaters to take advantage of the great weather.

The MWD planted 10,000 pounds of baby trout on March 19 and is busy building a new and improved larger fish cage to grow the next shipment of fish from California Fish and Wildlife.

Public launch ramps are also gearing up for official opening. The Carol Morrison Public Launch, more commonly known as the East Ramp, will open for early season hours daily beginning Wednesday, April 1. Hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The Duane Boyer Public Launch, or West Ramp, remains closed until May 7.For more information, call the East Ramp at 909-866-5200 or the MWD at 909-866-5796.

Following suit, several marinas have already opened or are planning to open in the next week. Shelly Fengler, owner of Big Bear Marina, is excited about the upcoming season. “Our goal is to open April 1,” Fengler said. “It will be a soft opening because it’s on a Wednesday. But we will have boats available to rent by that weekend.”

Rental options at Big Bear Marina include pontoons, fishing boats, kayaks and paddleboards. “We have fuel available for purchase, fishing licenses and a full pro shop,” Fengler said.
Big Bear Marina is at 500 Paine Court, Big Bear Lake. For more information, call 909-866-3218.

Captain John’s Fawn Harbor & Marina also opens April 1 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Manager Serena Saunders said Captain John’s has the largest fleet of nonmotorized rentals including canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. Boat tours are available on Captain John’s special electric boats. Call 909-866-6478 for more information. Captain John’s Fawn Harbor & Marina is at 39369 North Shore Drive in Fawnskin.

Several marinas already open include Pine Knot Landing and Holloway’s Marina. The Miss Liberty Tour Boat has run all winter at Pine Knot Landing.Pine Knot Landing is at 439 Pine Knot Ave., Big Bear Lake. For more information, call 909-878-5750.Holloway’s Pirate Ship is scheduled to set sail for boat tours Saturday, March 28, according to employee Maria Da Re.  Holloway’s is at 398 Edgemoor Road, Big Bear Lake. For more information, call 909-866-5706.

Pleasure Point Marina will be available for boat and slip rentals the week of April 6. Office manager Jesi Pujda said the marina is also in the process of arranging a partnership with a new charter fishing concession.

Pleasure Point Marina is at 603 Landlock Landing, Big Bear Lake. For more information, call 909-866-2455.

Warm Winter Affecting Lake Levels in Big Bear Lake

Grout Bay january 3 2014

Here’s a quick article from Katherine Davis-Young of the Big Bear Grizzly regarding the lack of precipitation this Winter…not a big surprise, but it’s definitely a concern heading into the Summer boating season.

Water Woes

Warm Winter Leaves Lake Levels Low for Summer

Water in Big Bear Lake evaporated as much this February as it does in an average June, according to Big Bear Municipal Water District General Manager Mike Stephenson. That’s something Stephenson, who has worked for the district since 1996, has not seen before.

“I’ve seen the levels off, but not this much in a February,” Stephenson said. “February was extremely hot, warm, windy and dry. The evaporation just went crazy.”

During an average February, about 200 acre-feet of water will evaporate from the lake. This year, it was closer to 1,200, Stephenson said.

“It was scary because when you start getting summer-like evaporation in the winter, you say ‘jeez, where are we going to end up this year,’” Stephenson said.

The lake is about 11 feet down from full, and Stephenson expects it could dip about 3 feet lower throughout summer and fall if there are no major weather events to bring more water into the lake. Big Bear Lake did receive more precipitation this November, December and January than the previous winter, according to National Weather Service records, but the lake level is still lower than it was at this time last year.

“Just because you receive precipitation, it doesn’t mean it will make it to the lake,” Stephenson said, adding that the past three years have had among the lowest amounts of inflow into the lake for any three-year period on record.

The lake fared a little better in March than February, Stephenson said. Cooler temperatures and a little snow helped slow the rate of evaporation. Lake levels steadied for a few days as snow melted, though they are beginning to decline again. Stephenson doesn’t expect to see much more runoff making it into the lake without more precipitation.

“There’s nothing left in the watershed,” Stephenson said. “(The rain and snow that fell this winter) already pretty much went into the ground or it’s already in the lake.” He added that the unmelted snow still on Big Bear’s ski slopes is “not enough to matter.”

Right now it would take more than 9 billion gallons of water to fill the lake, Stephenson said.

Even in the worst drought in California history, things could be worse. Stephenson said last year the MWD spent more than $1.2 million on its agreement to buy water for Bear Valley Mutual Water Company rather than releasing water from the lake to the company. That has prevented the lake levels from falling much lower. “Without that agreement we’d be in really, really big trouble right now,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson also pointed out that, the lake has been lower than its current level in years past, and the local economy has made do.

“I’m actually not nervous. The lake will recreate wonderfully, the launch ramp will be in full operation, the marinas aren’t going to suffer a lot,” Stephenson said.

Serena Saunders, of Captain John’s Fawn Harbor & Marina, said she will likely have to move docks out farther, but she plans to just keep following the water. “That’s really the only thing we can do,” Saunders said. “It’s tough, but it’s a cycle that’s happened in Big Bear before and we’ve made it through. We’ll still be open and ready for business. This summer will be just as fun as any other summer,” she said.

Leo McCarthy, general manager and harbor master at Pine Knot Marina, said the business will definitely be making adjustments, but said, “It’s a crapshoot, you never know what the weather will bring.”

Stephenson estimates it would take about two more dry years before the lake dipped 17 feet below full, like it did in 2004. Until that happens, he said he’ll stay optimistic.

“There’s still a lot of lake out there,” he said.

Trout Derbies on Hiatus

Madison fishing

Trout Derbies on Hiatus

Written by Kathie Portie of the Big Bear Grizzly

Big Bear’s spring outdoor sports calendar was lightened considerably this past week. Two of the Valley’s largest trout tournaments—the May Trout Classic and Fishin’ for 50K—will not take place in 2015.

The Jim Hall Memorial May Trout Classic is the oldest and most successful of the two tournaments, having enjoyed 32 years of existence. The 2015 tourney was slated for May 16-17 until event organizers decided to pull the plug, at least for this year.

In a letter from event organizers, Jason Hall explained the factors that led to the decision. “… we find ourselves in litigation over an incident that occurred in the 2013 May Trout Classic,” Hall wrote. “Our current insurance company, Scottsdale, has still not made a decision as to whether or not they will defend us. They have allowed many deadlines to pass to respond to the court, and we have had to retain our own attorney at the expense of the Trout Classic. This may eventually deplete our startup funds irreparably.”

Hall went on to say that they have been unable to secure new insurance at an affordable price in time for the 2015 event. “The mission of the May Trout Classic has been to maintain Big Bear Lake as a premier trout fishery by planting trophy sized fish each year,” Hall wrote. “We are making every effort to resume this event for 2016.”

“This is not a goodbye, but just so long for a while,” Hall concluded.

According to the Big Bear Events Resource Office, the May Trout Classic contributed between $85,000 and $100,000 to the local economy in 2012 and 2013. According to Rick Bates, Events Resource Office director, Fishin’ for 50K primarily attracted visiting anglers who contributed an estimated $210,000 into the local economy in 2014.

Fishin’ for 50K was scheduled for early June, sponsored by the Big Bear Visitor’s Bureau, formerly known as the Big Bear Lake Resort Association. According to Visitors Bureau spokesman Dan McKernan, the organization is heavily involved with the Amgen Tour of California Big Bear Time Trial in May and the Outdoor Writers Association of California Conference in June. Adding the trout derby responsibilities was proving difficult to manage. But it’s not the only reason the trout derby is going on hiatus, McKernan said.

“We need to take a rest,” McKernan said. “We’re going to freshen it up for 2016. We want to give a fresh new look and new focus for next year.” The plan is to bring it back in 2016, he said.

Local marinas are expected to feel the pinch. Bait, gear, licenses and boat rentals are items visiting anglers often purchase from the local marinas. Leo McCarthy, manager of Pine Knot Landing, said the bulk of his business comes during the boating season rather than from fishing tournaments, but could see that it would affect others such as Big Bear Marina. Attempts to contact other marinas by The Grizzly were unsuccessful as most offices are closed until April.

Anglers may feel the pinch as well. The Big Bear Municipal Water District depends on tournament entry fees to help with fish plants. MWD General Manager Mike Stephenson said it’s probably too late to get anything organized to replace the two lost tourneys for the spring. When asked if the MWD could perhaps host a tourney, Stephenson said it’s something he hopes the MWD board will consider, or at least discuss the options.

Several other tournaments are still on the 2015 calendar including Aaron’s Bass Tournament, the Carp RoundUp and the TroutfesT.

“We still have the October TroutfesT holding on,” Stephenson said.“They are working on their paperwork right now.”

Getting a Loan for your Lakefront Property in Big Bear? Make sure you’re prepared for possible delays

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Below is an informative article I recently read from the LA Times regarding a tweak in Fannie Mae’s appraisal process which they will be implementing over the next couple of weeks.  Critics claim that adding an additional step to the appraisal process will; a) lead to more expensive appraisals; and b) favor lower valued comparables which will complicate the process and make it harder for an appraiser to justify the value.  It might not seem like a big deal but with low inventory and fewer sales along the lake it could pose a problem if you plan on getting a loan for your lakefront purchase.  As always, the key is being informed and being proactive with your lender.

New Fannie Mae Program Could Bust Deals, Appraisers Say

Could a controversial new program set for launch nationwide this month by giant mortgage investor Fannie Mae lead to slower and costlier home sale closings and more disputes over prices between sellers and buyers — busting deals when the appraised value comes in below what the parties agreed to in the contract?

Fannie Mae doesn’t think so, but many appraisers are worried that the new program might mess up the marketplace. Here’s a quick overview of the issue and what it could mean to you as a seller or buyer:

Starting Jan. 26, Fannie Mae plans to offer mortgage lenders access to proprietary home valuation databases that they can use to assess the accuracy of and risks posed by the reports submitted by appraisers. The Fannie data will flag possible errors in the appraiser’s work before the lender commits to fund the loan, score the appraisal for overall risk of inaccuracy and may provide as many as 20 alternative “comps” — properties in the area that have sold recently and are roughly comparable to the house the lender is considering approving for financing but were not used by the appraiser.

Lenders can then forward Fannie’s alternative comps and risk scores to the appraiser or the management company that hired the appraiser requesting explanations and changes to the appraisal.

Professional appraisers rely on comps as key indicators for value. If houses “A” and “B” in the neighborhood sold within the last three months for $250,000 and are similar in size and features to the house under consideration by the lender, the appraisal should come in close to that number, absent any dramatic recent marketplace changes.

But if the appraiser values the house at the contract price of $300,000 agreed by the seller and buyer, the valuation may be judged too high. Excessive valuations create the risk of future losses to lenders and investors if the borrower defaults and the house goes to foreclosure.

On its face, the new Fannie program appears unassailable. Lenders and investors have an inherent right to be sure the appraisals they use for their funding decisions are accurate. If Fannie has developed a high-tech tool to help lenders spot risky appraisals upfront, where’s the problem?

Start with delays to closings and higher costs.

Appraisers say if they have to justify piecemeal why they chose the comps for their valuation rather than those selected by Fannie’s computers, it will add days — a week or more in extreme cases — to closing times. Meanwhile, sellers and buyers who had planned on dates for moving may suddenly find themselves knocked off track because the appraisal report was flagged. Realtors’ commission payouts also will be delayed.

Mike Turner, an appraiser in Northridge, told me it will be “an utter waste of time” if he has to explain point by point why he didn’t use the comps supplied by Fannie.

Pat Turner, an appraiser in Richmond, Va., and no relation to Mike, told me appraisers will have to raise their fees to compensate for the additional time.

“You think I’m going to do this for free?” he asked. “Hell no!” He predicted that his per-job fee could jump $150 to $200 or more simply because of Fannie’s new program — all paid for by consumers at settlement.

Another problem: Fannie Mae won’t give appraisers access to the “black box” databases it uses to produce risk-rating scores. A national petition sponsored by the Illinois Coalition of Appraisal Professionals is now circulating, demanding transparency.

Critics such as Mike Turner charge that Fannie’s data will not be able to recognize differences between adjacent neighborhoods — a key factor in valuations — because it is based on census tract groupings, which may include mixes of lower-priced and higher-priced homes from different neighborhoods. He believes that the risk-rating system inevitably will be biased toward lower-priced comparables — something he says appraisers “will figure out quickly” — and will therefore reward appraisers who choose less costly properties for their comps.

“Lower-risk comps will tend to kill deals,” he predicts, forcing sellers and buyers into needless disputes when appraisals come in below the agreed contract price.

Fannie says appraisers’ concerns are overblown and that if widespread problems arise it will make adjustments.

Andrew Wilson, a Fannie spokesman, denied that the system will be biased to the downside.

“It’s going to flag mistakes,” he said, “and frankly everybody should want that.”

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