Several families whose vacation homes at Lake Nacimiento were among the buildings destroyed in the Chimney Fire nearly two years ago are still looking for permission to rebuild.
"We don't want anything more than we had. It's a shame they're putting fire victims through this," said Gary Nicholson, whose 800-square-foot cabin on the water's edge was engulfed in flames in August 2016.
The question that both San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties have to consider is whether the seven or eight burned homes that were located just below the lake's 825-foot flood line should be allowed to be rebuilt in the same location, within an easement owned by Monterey County Water Resource Agency that spans the perimeter of the lake.
Aside from those that burned, at least 100 additional homes elsewhere around the lake remain in the easement below the 825-foot line, according to Steve Demsher, president of the Cal-Shasta Club, where the properties in question are located.
"They're all permitted and all have been paying property taxes for decades," Demsher said.
The destroyed houses have never been flooded by the lake water and the lake is not authorized to hold water at 825 feet, he said.
Both counties' boards of supervisors on Tuesday will consider whether to allow reconstruction of the homes. But MCWRA has been steadfast in its opposition to rebuilds within the easement.
"The preferred approach to addressing this issue should be to locate the cabins outside of the floodage easement. … This would significantly reduce any risk to life, property, and the environment, and reduce the encroachment into the floodage easement that has occurred over time," David E. Chardovoyne, MCWRA general manager, said in a letter to San Luis Obispo County.
That roadblock is frustrating for Nicholson.
"Our houses were permitted. People before me and people before them have paid taxes since the 1970s on the San Luis Obispo County property," Nicholson said.
The loss was more than monetary; some of the lake houses were passed down through generations and homeowners planned to continue the tradition.
For a time, MCWRA staff considered recommending a policy to allow for reconstruction of the vacation homes, but it reconsidered its position after the events at Oroville Dam because the spillway failure required all dam operators to provide assurances that all existing and new regulations are being followed, Chardovoyne said in the letter.