September 29, 2008

Lake Arrowhead Construction Sites Agree to Water Terms

By Lauren McSherry

After nearly a year of citations by the state of California for water pollution, representatives from two Lake Arrowhead land developments say they are planning to bring their construction sites into compliance.

Not only has one of the projects, known as Mill Pond, received state scrutiny, but it has also caught the attention of the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.

The district attorney opened an investigation this year into the construction site overseen by developer J. Burton Gold, whose Mill Pond project involves building a gated community in Cedar Glen with a hotel, 72 residences and a restaurant.

The second development that has violated state water-quality laws is the Eagle Ridge project off Grass Valley Road near Lake Arrowhead. The owners of the site plan to build 206 houses that will each sell for around $600,000.

"These present a large-enough threat that we've actually gotten involved with them," said Scott Ferguson, supervisor of the enforcement and special projects unit for the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. "They've both experienced significant discharges of sediment into local surface waters."

The two land developers were cited for letting sediment erode into waterways feeding into Lake Arrowhead, the main source of drinking water for the community.

Wayne Simmons, a partner in the Eagle Ridge project and the owner of Simmons Construction in Calimesa, said workers began remedying the problem Wednesday.

He added that he and his business partners are interested in complying with state regulations.

"We're currently reviewing the violations," Simmons said. "Any adjustments that are required, we'll make."

"To Eagle Ridge's credit they have made some responses on the ground," Ferguson said.

Since December, the Mill Pond development has received numerous citations from the state water control board but has been slow to fix the problem.

"Why is it taking them as long as it is?" Ferguson said. "It's really a question for them."

Ted Baum, the attorney representing the Mill Pond developer, said the company expects to be in compliance by Oct. 15.

"The notice of violation contained minor violations that are all being remedied," Baum said.

Ferguson said releasing large amounts of sediment into Lake Arrowhead is a concern for two reasons. The sediment can clog water intake valves, and it can cripple the food chain. Heavy sediment loads can kill off aquatic insects that form the foundation of the local ecosystem, he said.

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