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City Lakes Now Off Limits Might Open for Swimming

August 26, 1986|KENNETH F. BUNTING | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Nine reservoirs owned by the City of San Diego could be opened for the first time to swimming, wading and water skiing under a bill sent to Gov. George Deukmejian on Monday after a 27-0 Senate vote.

The bill, by Sen. Jim Ellis (R-San Diego) and backed by city officials, affects only San Diego County lakes where future domestic water is stored.

Initially, Ellis' bill would have removed restrictions to swimming in domestic water supplies throughout the state.

But small water agencies around the state, who said they did not want to be pressured into opening up their reservoirs for swimming, opposed it.

Ellis' bill allows "bodily contact" recreation in the city reservoirs as long as the water is to be fully treated before reaching residential faucets and health officials confirm that all of their regulations and safety concerns are met.

Former state Health Director Peter Rank said during a committee hearing on Ellis' bill last year that no "significant threat to public health is likely to be caused by body contact recreation . . . as long as certain safeguards are met."

Lake Murray, Lake Hodges, Lake Miramar, Lake El Capitan, Lake Vincente, Lake Otay, Upper Otay Lake, Lake Sutherland and Lake Barrett could all be affected if the San Diego City Council, city water officials and state health officials agree on necessary safeguards.

Noting that urban residents "must often drive long distances for opportunities" for water recreation, San Diego City Councilman Ed Struiksma had long sought to open city-owned lakes to recreation.

But current state law regarding domestic water supplies prohibits swimming and other body contact activities in future drinking water.

Sport fishermen already use most of the city-owned reservoirs and want to keep them for themselves. Sal Mineo, president of the San Diego Bass Council, a sportfishing group, said he would urge Deukmejian to veto it.

Mineo, who is also a member of the City Council's advisory Lakes Committee, said anglers oppose Struiksma's plan because city lakes are already overcrowded.

"We don't have anything against swimmers," Mineo said. "We have a hard time opposing it on health concerns because that's not where we are coming from."

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