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Home News Latest ELECTION 2012: ‘Measure E’ focuses on efforts to improve, protect Clear Lake

ELECTION 2012: ‘Measure E’ focuses on efforts to improve, protect Clear Lake

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Clear Lake is located in the heart of Lake County, Calif., where voters will have a chance to decide in the November 2012 election whether or not to support a half-cent sales tax measure meant to improve the lake’s condition. Photo by John Jensen.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – This November, Lake County voters will decide on a sales tax measure that promises to devote much-needed funding toward protecting and improving Clear Lake.

“Measure E” will be on the Nov. 6 ballot, offering voters the opportunity to devote a portion of locally collected sales tax to projects to improve the condition of Clear Lake, which is at the heart of the county’s identity and economy.

At its Aug. 7 meeting, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the resolution calling for Measure E to be put on the Nov. 6 ballot. The board chose to pursue the lake-centered measure over another proposed sales tax measure that would have raised funds for local roads.

Spearheaded by Supervisor Anthony Farrington, Measure E is a half-cent sales tax that would be used exclusively for Clear Lake-based projects.

It’s anticipated that the measure will raise $2.4 million on an annual basis – with estimates that about a third of the revenue will come from visitors to the county, Farrington said.

Farrington, who grew up in Lake County, said this is the first sales tax he’s supported while on the board.

The reason he’s pursuing the tax is that he’s witnessed a change in Clear Lake, and has heard from constituents about their concerns over what has happened to the lake over the past several years.

In addition to increasing problems with algae and weeds, over the past five years the potential for infestation by devastating invasives like the quagga and zebra mussels has become a concern for local officials, who want to implement more stringent protections to keep the mussels out of the lake.

“Clear Lake is the lifeblood of this community,” said Farrington, noting that dealing with algae, weeds and preventing invasive mussels “is in everyone’s best interests.”

What Measure E won’t do, he emphasized, is turn Clear Lake into a swimming pool. Clear Lake is a shallow, warm lake, “and we’re not going to change that,” or seek to dredge it, he said.

Rather, the focus is on mitigating nuisance issues that harm tourism and the economy, and preventing an invasive mussels infestation that would completely alter the lake’s ecological makeup and devastate the economy, he said.

The “Save the Lake” campaign to promote Measure E, which has a short time frame before the November election,  has gotten off to an energetic start.

“It’s going great,” said Farrington. “The response has been very positive.”

The ballot argument was signed by a group of well-respected county residents, including Kelly Cox, retired Lake County administrative officer; businessmen Bill Brunetti, Dennis Darling and Walt Campbell; and Dr. Harry Lyons, an expert on Clear Lake who teaches at Yuba College.

So far it’s been endorsed by a broad range of local groups and individuals, including the Lake County Chamber of Commerce, the Lake County Association of Realtors, and the Sierra Club Lake Group and its parent Redwood Chapter.

“Restoring the health of Clear Lake is imperative for its own sake, and also vital for the future of our community,” the Sierra Club Lake Group said in a statement it released on Measure E. “The Sierra Club is therefore proud to endorse Measure E, and urges our members and all Lake County voters who care about the environment to vote in favor of it.”

The Lake County Association of Realtors is donating $3,000 toward the campaign.

“Our Realtors are very concerned about the severe decrease in tourism due to the condition of the lake which seriously impacts the economic survival of Lake County,” the group said. “Businesses are closing, wildlife is harmed, and property values are down. All of these things can be changed with a healthy, clean lake.”

In addition, the effort has a number of other individuals supporting it – including volunteers and contributors – and a committee to guide it.

Farrington started a Facebook page that in just a matter of weeks is hovering near 600 likes. It can be found at .

A fundraising letter went out earlier this month that, along with other efforts, has so far raised about $5,000 to support the campaign, which has a goal of $20,000, Farrington said.

Fundraising letters also were sent to second home owners in the Bay Area. Since then, Farrington said he’s received 30 to 40 calls a day from people who are very excited about the measure, and are glad action is being taken.

He said those second home owners are sharing a consistent narrative – that of their families owning property in Lake County for generations, but now finding that their children don’t want to visit because of the lake’s condition.

He said the Measure E committee has ordered signs and will soon start placing those around the county, and a direct mailer will be sent to county residents.

How it works; what it would do

The dedicated tax must pass by a two-thirds “super majority” in order to ensure that the funds will be used for the lake only.

The half-cent sales tax – which would not apply to things like groceries – would end up costing about a dime on a $20 purchase, Farrington said.

The tax sunsets in 10 years, at which time voters can have the chance to decide whether to renew it, he said.

Measure E’s expenditure plan allocates 88 percent to weed and algae management, and invasive mussels prevention. Regarding the latter, Farrington said the long-term vision includes placing inspection stations at the four major entry points into the county to screen transient vessels.

Another 11 percent will be used for water quality programs, including wetlands preservation like the Middle Creek restoration project, which would address an area where 70 percent of Clear Lake’s nutrient loading occurs, Farrington said. Those funds also could be used as a match for federal and state grants and seed money to acquire properties in the project area.

Farrington said the last 1 percent would go toward a required independent audit.

A citizens oversight committee would monitor how the funds are used. Farrington said the committee will include two elected officials each from the Lakeport and Clearlake city councils and the Board of Supervisors, and one citizen each from Lakeport, Clearlake and the unincorporated county, for a total of nine members.

Farrington said it’s important to remember that the state rolled back its sales tax by 1 percent about a year ago, and that at 7.25 percent Lake County’s unincorporated area has one of the state’s lowest base tax rates.

One of the biggest challenges Measure E faces is distrust, which Farrington attributes to voters getting let down by state, federal and some local governments.

He said the only pushback the effort has received so far comes from individuals who want to make sure the funds raised actually are spent on Clear Lake.

“They understand the connection of the lake to the entire county, they just have concerns about being certain that it’s going to be spent on the lake and in the lake, and it’s not being spent on government bureaucracy,” he said.

That’s why the board chose to make it a specific tax, Farrington said.

He said the money would stay in Lake County, and not go to Sacramento. “The money can only be spent for lake-related programs and it’s locked in solely for that purpose.”

Improving the lake will preserve and enhance property values, improve tourism, and create jobs and a more stronger economy, said Farrington. “This investment is going to create a better, more vibrant community.”

It’s estimated that the measure will create 20 to 30 local jobs – from running inspection stations to seasonal jobs harvesting algae and weeds.

Using ‘focus and flexibility’ to help Clear Lake

Dr. Harry Lyons, one of the measure’s supporters, frequently gives talks on the lake, as he did last Wednesday night at the Sierra Club Lake Group meeting.

He said he was planning to discuss the lake’s transparency – it’s become clearer than it has been – which speaks to what Lyons calls a “regime change” in the lake. The most notable result of the regime change in Clear Lake has been the increase in cyanobacteria, which is feeding on the nutrient rich conditions in the lake.

“The lake does change,” Lyons said.

“We’ve had important shifts in how the lake behaved,” he continued. “Now is the time for some pilot projects.”

Lyons said that he likes the nice combination of “focus and flexibility” that Measure E offers.

The focus part, he said, regards algae, weeds and preventing a mussels infestation. “It’s not about highfalutin research that I might want to do or someone else might want to do,” Lyons said. “It’s about practical projects on those three areas.”

Lyons expects those projects also will help lead to a better understanding of Clear Lake.

Where the flexibility comes in, Lyons said, is in the form of the citizens oversight committee, which is empowered to decide where the available funds go. As projects succeed or fail then the pattern of effort can change, he said. “I like that.”

As for preventing quagga mussels getting into Clear Lake, Lyons said the issue about the potential for invasives “alerts people to what we have and the value we place on what we have.”

People understand that Clear Lake is a unique system, Lyons said.

“That’s what’s really great about talking to the people who use the lake. They know the lake has changed,” he said.

He doesn’t think there is a common misperception about the lake any more. “People are hip.”

Email Elizabeth Larson at [email protected] .

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Comments (23)Add Comment
written by Greg_Cornish, October 09, 2012
Clearly you have thought this out much better than the folks who want to pay more taxes. Good job breaking it down.
written by cory, October 09, 2012
Lets use some common sense first.
1) The plan is to hire more county employees to man the check stations at boat ramps for Mussels. So far we have not found any mussels so the program we have in place is either working
or we just don't have a problem.
2) The plan calls for spending money for water testing to the tune of over $25,000 a year which we are doing now. So now they are going to save that $25,000 and use it somewhere else.
3) They have no plan to get rid of weeds and Algae. If you don't believe me ask specifically what is their plan, ask the question, because so far nothing has worked.
4) They have been pissing away money cutting weeds in Lakeport and Soda Bay, letting the weeds float on the lake and reseeding in other parts of the lake. Any one that has a lawn knows
that pulling the weeds out by the ROOTS is the only way to get rid of weeds, cutting the tops just makes the root base stronger.
5) Most of the money will be wasted they are talking about 300 acres to clean up. Now do you really think they are going to clean up in front of your house or do you think they are going to
clean up just in Lakeport, maybe the state park. 300 acres is not a big area.

Look I am not opposed to paying a sales tax to clean up the lake, BUT, like most businesses that come out with a new product, in this case the product is cleaning the lake, you have a plan that you have tested and it works. WE HAVE NO PLAN. This is how typical stupid government employees do things, they ask for money first, before they know how to solve the problem.
written by jmadison, September 25, 2012
Dredging will NOT work!! Can we quit talking about it already?
Not applicable to groceries
written by elarson, September 24, 2012
Sales tax in any case does not apply to groceries. The word "not" was inadvertently left out of one of the sentences that discussed what would be taxed, and it has been fixed to reflect that.
OK, I'll bite.
written by a guest, September 24, 2012
This all sounds fine, BUT>>>will everything be centered around Lakeport? They tried weed abatement with a stationary unit. Hey they have problems in LP, but the smell in Clearlake is sickening, I wish part of this money would go to putting an end to Yolo County draining the lake so low. It has to play a large part. Sue them for causing a health hazard. Get the EPA involved. The rumor I hear is that the vineyard run off is another culprit. Granted, there is a lot that can be done about the weeds and it will take money but no matter what is done, even dredging, as long as people pollute and outsiders take all our water with total disregard, the problem will not go away.
written by mscheel, September 24, 2012
MEASURE E MONDAY: 30 MINUTES. Join PUB TALK ( tonight at 8 p.m. on KPFZ 88.1 FM for a Measure E discussion with LC Supervisor Anthony Farrington. If you are outside the station's coverage area, go to for live internet stream. Please feel free to join the conversation at 707-263-3435 or on facebook. Looking forward to your thoughts and questions.
written by jmadison, September 24, 2012
Mountain might want to move somewhere else. Clear Lake is a wonderful beautiful lake. It is a very healthy lake. Its just that people like you are afraid of getting in water with aquatic plants.
I would also like to see some specifics. What is on the table and whats off of it. forget the dredging and the harvesting. How do we decrease nutrient intake? I have heard a lot of advice given by biologists who think that we need to restore the wetlands to upperlake instead of putting in levees and farms.
Mr. Farington, is this topic up for conversation?? The money could be used for the county to purchase the properties to restore the wetlands.
I Suggest
written by Greg_Cornish, September 24, 2012
Everyone read this measure in its entirety and look for something concrete you can bank on that will balance out the $24,000,000 over ten years.

These are two important paragraphs.

This is for research that should be handled at the Federal and State levels. Who is going the "develop and test" these procedures that have not yet been invented? Do counties pay for research and development in this nature?

Let's say your are going to make a stocks investment. Would you invest in a proposal worded like this? I wouldn't give this measure the chances I gave Measure D. Sure it'll throw a bucket of money at the Zebra mussel program but personally I think that's a bigger waste of time. If they can get here they will. When you have wake boats with ballasts traveling from Havasu, Powell and Meade and you are looking to prevent microscopic organisms from entering - good luck. Maybe - MAYBE - you can slow it down but you'll never stop it.

This money might be better spent getting prepared for their arrival with chlorine injectors at the intakes of water pipes or studies to find other means to prevent them from clogging pipes.
written by BATTLECAT!, September 24, 2012
Clearlake is not a "cesspool" MountainBreeze! That is the wrong noun to use in describing Clearlake…oligotrophic is the proper word I would use. And 60 years ago doesn't qualify as "always" in my book. The lake and its surrounding habitat were fine until Europeans arrived and screwed everything up, and I say that as a European. Nature designed Clearlake just fine! A half-cent sales tax is nothing when compared to what the benefits can be. This community needs help, suggesting that only property owners need to be responsible for the care and health of the lake is ridiculous! Vote yes on Measure E…its the right thing to do…period!
Good Clarification
written by a guest, September 24, 2012
"What Measure E won’t do, he (Farrington) emphasized, is turn Clear Lake into a swimming pool. Clear Lake is a shallow, warm lake, 'and we’re not going to change that,' or seek to dredge it, he said."
It is good that the terms are explicit from the very start, so that people do not develop unrealistic expectations.
written by a guest, September 24, 2012
Join PUB TALK ( tonight at 8 p.m. on KPFZ 88.1 FM for a Measure E discussion with LC Supervisor Anthony Farrington. If you are outside the station's coverage area, go to for live internet stream. Please feel free to join the conversation at 707-263-3435 or on facebook. Looking forward to your thoughts and questions.
tax on food
written by a guest, September 24, 2012
taxing food is regressive as are all sales taxes. The Clear Lake Advisory Committee is not listened to by the board and the new committee will not be listened to either. Watch for the hiring of some friends or relatives to run the program, just like the pass thru tax on Mediacom subscribers for the PEG channel. One politician has already indicated that a friend of hers wants the job of manager for Channel 8 that was run by volunteers before the politicians ruined it.
written by nonewtaxes, September 24, 2012
This is the wrong tax at the wrong time. A sales tax is regressive - it takes a larger percentage of your income the less income you have! (tax the poor again!). Plus, major benefit of an improved Lake is to the property owners. Property tax assessment would be more appropriate. Secondly, state sales tax increase is also on ballot. We don’t need to add to the state increase with an additional local sales tax increase!
I'd give my arguments against...
written by Greg_Cornish, September 24, 2012
Like, I've read the measure and we'll be paying $24,000,000 over ten years to fund an experiment but this is going down. It doesn't stand a prayer in hell's chance.

On the other hand, If you craft something like a 1% sales tax to add more law enforcement and video surveillance in the parks around Clear Lake I'll campaign for you.
written by rtnc, September 24, 2012
"The specific plan is to help the lake" Doesn't sound specific to me.
written by aluchsinger, September 24, 2012
If this tax increase doesn't pass, what's the backup plan? I'm asking because sometimes the backup plan is more appealing.
The lake has always been a cesspool
written by MountainBreeze, September 24, 2012
and always will be with fertilizer and septic tanks leeching into the lake. It's always been an algae pit for at least the last 60 years I can remember. Why would tourist want to swim or pleasure boat in Clear Lake when there are better bodies of water nearby.
Yes on E
written by jmadison, September 24, 2012
The problem with a specfic plan is that the specifics aren't known yet. Lets hire a few biologists to give us our tough medicine. If they say we need to restore the Upper Lake Middle Creek area then I think we need to do it. We need those wet lands to act as a filter mechanism. We wil never be able to dredge our way out of this or harvest enough algae to restore the clarity. We need to reduce the nutients that flow int the lake.
Restore the wetlands in Upper Lake!!
What is the specific plan?
written by a guest, September 24, 2012
The specific plan is to help the lake. The article outlined it pretty well. The bottom line is the lake needs help and this is the first step to doing that. And as far as the Algae harvesting, that's not going to happen; this is the only appropriate measure for the time being. The bottom line is the county doesn't have the funds to attempt or sustain any more weed, algae, or mussel mitigation unless Measure E passes. Half-cent sales tax is nothing…vote yes and let's get Clearlake and this community back on track!
Where is the specific plan?
written by a guest, September 24, 2012
Before we vote yes for the measure, we want to see the following:

1. A specific plan as to how and where the tax receipts will be spent.

2. Regarding algae, weeds and nutrients, we want a committment to spend more funds on the source of the problem. Middle Creek is only a part of the problem, 11% of the funds is not nearly enough as the algae/weed problem will never be fixed until the nutrient sources are mitigated.

3. Citizen's oversight comittee? What happened to CLAC (Clear Lake Advisory Committee)? If the BOS doesn't feel that CLAC can handle the job why are they still an official committee?
written by een55, September 24, 2012
Don't know how many people will remember....but a few years back some people, I believe, from Japan or somewhere similar, wanted to harvest the algae and the BOS wanted a cut from the monies made by them...
which made the deal go south.....maybe they can call that company and have them go ahead with their plans
without the county charging them anything....good idea???
written by a guest, September 24, 2012
We do not pay sales tax on the food we buy at the store. I know Tony knows that. The pears that a lot of the grapes replaced used a lot more fertilizer than the grapes.
Good Idea
written by a guest, September 24, 2012
Does anybody know if the rise of the Lake schmutz is in proportion to the amount of agriculture (vineyards) and how much phosphate based fertilizer they use?

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Last Updated ( Monday, 24 September 2012 23:06 )