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Controversial Lake Sonoma is filling up and ready for fishing, boating, hiking.

It was born in controversy. The Warm Springs Dam, which has created new Lake Somona, was first proposed in the late 1930s; it was authorized by Congress in 1962, begun in 1967, then halted by litigation in 1974.

When questions of seismic safety, water quality, and environmental impact were resolved, construction resumed. Late last year the two-armed lake began filling. Designed for flood control, irrigation, and recreation, it's now about a third full and open for year-round fishing.

The 17,600-acre Lake Sonoma Recreation Area, 70 miles northwest of San Francisco, has marinas, a lookout tower, and three hiking trails. Fall brings crisp, sunny days and promises lively fishing. November into March, you can watch spawning king salmon, silver salmon, and steelhead leaping the fish ladder into the state-of-the-art hatchery here.

Campgrounds should open by 1987. When the lake is full (perhaps in 1988), it will measure 3,600 surface acres and 73 shoreline miles (Tahoe has 72 miles).

At the base of the dam, the side-by-side visitor center and hatchery are open 9:30 to 4 Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, 10 to 5 weekends. You'll find fishing and hiking information, and displays on the lake and history of the Pomo Indians here.

Year-round fishermen can go after largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, red-eared sunfish, and rainbow trout (limit five); a license is required. Buy bait or rent a boat at the temporary marina facility on the lake's Warm Springs side.

At the Lake Sonoma Resort marina (7 to dusk daily), you can launch a boat ($8) or rent a canoe ($5 per hour, $15 half-day, $25 all day), paddle boat or sailboard ($6, $18,$30), powerboat ($20,$50,$75), and water-skis ($5,$10,$15).

Controversies remain: at $240 million, it's the costliest public works project in the country's history, but it includes only a portion of the recreation originally promised (budget cuts reduced 120 miles of hiking and riding trails to 40 miles).

To get there, drive U.S. Highway 101 to Geyserville; take the Canyon Road exit southwest 2 miles. At Dry Creek Road, head northwest about 3 miles.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1985
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