PINETOP-LAKESIDE — Sadly, Rainbow Lake suffered greatly last summer from lack of runoff and rainfall and still has not completely recovered. The water level is still very low.

The good news is with the recent snows and subsequent runoff, there is an opportunity to see the lake full again before the irrigation season starts.

Here’s the bad news: The irrigation control gate that was installed nearly 120 years ago when Rainbow Lake was constructed has about reached the end of its lifetime. It must be replaced; however, the irrigation company has limited funds. The ongoing litigation on the tribal claims to the Little Colorado River water rights are expensive.

More good news: Both the Rainbow Lake Coalition and Save Our park (Woodland Park and Lake) have pledged funds to assistant the irrigation company in infrastructure repair.

The low levels of the lake were good news for controlling the weeds in the lake. Weeds could not sprout in the exposed shallow areas of the lake. A weed survey was not conducted last fall because of the low water levels; however, this was not an issue because the weeds aren’t there. Bad news for the weed-eating carp that were stocked into the lake a few years ago to control the weeds. The good news is that the carp did their job and the formerly weed-choked lake is now nearly clear of weeds. But that is bad news for hungry carp searching the lake bottom for weeds to eat. Arizona Game and Fish Department has suggested that Rainbow Lake is currently in equilibrium as it has been for the past three years.

It is bad news that the invasive pike that were thoughtlessly introduced into Rainbow Lake are still there and eating trout and other valuable game fish. But it is good news that Game and Fish will do some netting in February or March to remove pike and establish the population level to guide future eradication efforts. A byproduct of the pike-netting program is that carp will be briefly captured along with the pike, giving Game and Fish experts an opportunity to survey the carp population and see how healthy the individual fish are.

All in all, mostly good news.

The Rainbow Lake Coalition is the Community Action Team sponsored by the Little Colorado River Plateau RC&D, a federally chartered 501©3 nonprofit headquartered in Holbrook. The coalition is an informal group with membership open to anyone with an interest in Rainbow Lake and environs. An e-mail with updates and information is sent out as events develop. For further information, call David Newlin at 928.524.2912 or e-mail at david@littlecolorado.net.

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