A case made by Congressman Tom McClintock in this story from Village Life, discussing Folsom Lake drawdowns.
Until the drought began five years ago, Folsom Lake Marina operator at Brown’s Ravine Ken Christensen said it was typical for boats to stay in rented slips until October, with 5 mph signs posted through December. For the past few years 675 slip renters have had to pull their boats out of the water well before Labor Day, as early as June in 2015. Despite higher snow packs and lake levels this year, Christensen, who has operated Brown’s Ravine as a concessionaire for the state of California for 46 years, was as surprised as his customers to learn boats have to be removed by Aug. 5.
“I had really expected to stay in until October,” Christensen told Village Life. By Aug. 15 boats must reach speeds of only 5 mph.
Outflows will increase to send water elsewhere, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced. When water falls to 412 feet, boats must be removed.
“The policies are set by the state and feds,” Christensen explained. “What’s different is that more water will be taken from Folsom Lake, which holds 1 million acres of water, instead of from Lake Shasta, which holds 4.5 million acres, because they need to hold more cold water in Shasta for salmon in the river this fall. I’m afraid this is the new way the Bureau of Reclamation will be operating Folsom Lake moving forward. Congress directed them to do this.”
“Congress gave no such direction,” Congressman Tom McClintock wrote in an e-mail to answer this question for Village Life. “This is a deliberate decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to sacrifice the needs of millions of Californians in order to adjust water temperatures on the Sacramento River next fall so that the salmon might be more comfortable.
“This proposal is far more dangerous than interrupting recreation on Folsom Lake and imperiling all the jobs and livelihoods that it supports,” McClintock continued. “Folsom is the primary water supply for Roseville and surrounding communities. It is likely that a La Niña weather pattern will make next winter a very dry one. Because the Auburn Dam was never completed, we have no way to replenish Folsom Lake next spring if we have another dry winter.”
The proposed Auburn Dam was supposed to be on the North Fork of the American River, bordering Placer and El Dorado counties. Slated to be completed in the 1970s by the Bureau of Reclamation, the dam would have regulated water flow and provided flood control in the American River basin as part of Reclamation’s Central Valley Project.
Construction began on the dam in 1968, but after a nearby earthquake and discovery of a seismic fault underlaying the dam site, work on the project stopped. New proposals surfaced but the dam was never built.
Until 2007 the North Fork American River still flowed through the diversion tunnel that had been constructed in preparation for the dam. Reclamation and Placer County Water Agency completed a pump station project that year that blocked the tunnel, returned the river to its original channel and diverted water through another tunnel under Auburn to meet local needs. Some groups continue to support construction of the dam, which they claim would provide important water regulation and flood protection.
“Folsom had to open floodgates this past spring because without Auburn Dam we couldn’t store the run-off,” McClintock continued. “Now the environmental agencies propose to drain Folsom Lake of its remaining water in order to make fish on the Sacramento River happy.
“Last month, all 14 California Republican Congressmen from California and one Democrat wrote to the Department of Interior and begged them not to proceed with this plan. It will be the focus of a Water and Power Subcommittee hearing on July 12. (Village Life went to press before this meeting.) Unfortunately, we are dealing with an administration that puts fish ahead of people and that’s going to continue until the people have had enough.”