Water district’s conflict with feds over Folsom Lake comes with warnings
Pray for rain.
That’s the main message San Juan Water District is sending to area residents as federal regulators begin drawing Folsom Lake down to one of the lowest levels in its history, a move that — absent of unlikely winter rains — may threaten the water supply for Granite Bay, Folsom and Roseville.
At the same time, newly released data around the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan is leaving Folsom Lake’s local overseers with serious concerns about its future.
Folsom Lake to be at “Dead Pool” level at least once every 10 years, regardless of whether lawmakers end up building its controversial water diversion tunnels through the Delta.
The San Juan Water District recently announced the Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency that manages water levels at Folsom Lake, will be drawing the famous reservoir down to 376 feet above sea level by December 2013. San Juan Water’s position for some time has been the Bureau of Reclamation constantly uses Folsom Lake as “a first responder” for exporting water supplies to Southern California. However, the organization’s general manager, Shauna Lorance, says these current federal plans stand out in terms of how troubling they are: According to Lorance, the draw-down will put Folsom Lake at a level of roughly 300,000 acre-feet of water, fully 100,000 acre-feet lower than it was when a severe drought cause major problems throughout the region between 1976 and 1977.
“There have been a few years since 1977 when (Bureau of Reclamation) has drawn the lake down this low,” Lorance observed. “But we’ve been lucky and we’ve gotten good winter rains, and that basically saved us.”
But San Juan Water representatives are not so optimistic about such answers from the clouds this year. Lorance says current metrological estimations are predicting a very dry winter, at the same time Folsom Lake will be at a dangerously low level. San Juan Water’s staff believes that, if the “dry winter” forecast holds, Roseville, Folsom and Granite Bay will all face water supply problems.
Between major housing and business developments in the Bay Area, Southern California and South Placer County, the water demands on Folsom Lake are far greater than they were between the major drought in 1976 and 1977.
“If winter is dry, then next summer we’ll be discussing things like residents not being able to have outdoor irrigation and other extreme conservation measures,” Lorance said.
Drew Lessard, acting area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central California Office, told Gold Country Media sporadic rains last winter are partly why his agency is being forced to lower the lake.
“Obviously this year was a dry year,” Lessard noted. “It’s posed some real challenges for Reclamation. We have to manage the water for different purposes, including power needs, flood control and water supplies. We’re trying to balance those needs with keeping ourselves in the best position, given the circumstances, for next year’s water.”
San Juan Water District officials also have more far-reaching reasons to be concerned for Folsom Lake’s health. New data released in environmental documents around the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan suggest climate change alone will cause Folsom Lake to be at “Dead Pool” level at least once every 10 years, regardless of whether lawmakers end up building its controversial water diversion tunnels through the Delta. The findings were written by various environmental scientists that work for California. For Folsom Lake, “Dead Pool” is a 100,000 acre-feet water level that guarantees all draining through intake channels, spillways or the dam will stop. However, San Juan Water officials also point out the ability to use pumps to retrieve water from Folsom Lake ends sooner than “Dead Pool” status — with pumps being nonoperational at 240,000 acre-feet.
Folsom Lake’s intricate tie to the ecosystem of the American River, as well as the current protection measures for the Delta, puts the lake at the epicenter of both environmental pressures and ...