ALPINE, Calif. — East County residents are relieved that their beloved Loveland Reservoir is finally back open.

It took a strong showing by the Alpine and Jamul community. They raised the alarm over the Sweetwater Authority draining the reservoir and fought hard to get it back open.

East County families again enjoying the recreational activities that the Loveland Reservoir has offered for generations.

“Just enjoying hiking and walking around and seeing the water birds that come in this area,” said Kim Dudzik Hales, an East County resident. “Enjoy the plant life and everything else.”

But last November, the Sweetwater Authority drained the reservoir and closed it to the public. 

“I’m angry,” East County resident Warner Recabaren said. “The purpose of this of course was drinking water and they’re supposed to use it for drinking but they took it all — 100% of it. All the way to dry and what you see down here now is nothing but a cemetery of dead fish.”

Sweetwater Authority says the action was taken during drought conditions to provide drinking water to South Bay communities it serves and to save those ratepayers money. 

But East County residents say that came at a cost to the recreation, wildlife and fire protection in their community.

“These two facilities, Loveland Reservoir and Sweetwater Reservoir, have been working together throughout the years and transferring water as needed by our customers,” Sweetwater Authority General Manager Carlos Quintero said.

But after heated exchanges between East County residents and Sweetwater Authority representatives, the Loveland Reservoir is now back open.

“Excitement,” Hales said. “I’m glad to see. This is the first step in the recovery of the ecology of the area, so I was happy to hear that. Happy to hear that people can go and enjoy what we have here again.”

But residents say it will take years to bring it back to what it used to be.

“What we really need is fish and that’s for the ecology,” East County resident Russell Walsh said. “Sweetwater Authority is saying they’re interested, but there is no time frame.”

Some residents also say they want the reservoir to remain open past 6 p.m. each day. The Sweetwater Authority says it is also working with its partners to possibly enhance the recreation opportunities.