All Californians have a stake in the outcome of efforts to solve our water crisis and ensure continuous, reliable water supplies for the entire state.
Unfortunately, the water proposal that is being discussed at the State Capitol today, more commonly known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, would impose upon our region a one-sided solution that will result in serious economic and environmental consequences for us all.
As currently proposed, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan would lead to extremely low water levels at Folsom Lake, as more fresh water would be released from area reservoirs and instead diverted through “twin tunnels” that will send the water to southern part of the state. So much water would be drained on a routine basis that it would literally cause the lake to “dead pool” or dry up more than once every ten years. In my view, this proposal is a non-starter.
For years, my family has enjoyed the blessings of having Folsom Lake right here in our backyard. We have so many fond memories of family activities there, going back to when I was a child. But we are not alone. Visitors from around the state come there each summer to boat, fish, and swim with their families. In fact, it is the second-most visited state park in California. Just last summer, we welcomed the return of the famous Big Wake Weekend hydroplane races, the first time an event like this had been held in the Sacramento region in 46 years.
But all of these future tourism dollars and increased economic activity could be threatened if the Bay Delta Conservation Plan as it is currently written becomes reality.
The plan would threaten the primary water source in our region, which directly provides water to a half million customers, and another half million customers further south when water is sent downstream. The San Juan Water District has said they would not be able to provide water to local customers once a decade – even though we are home to an abundant supply of clean water right here in our backyard.
Folsom Lake also powers a significant economic engine for the cities of Roseville, Folsom and the surrounding communities, providing a significant water supply for local businesses. From mixing concrete on construction sites to powering dishwashers in restaurants and sinks in office buildings, water from the lake keeps our economy going. Without this water supply, many businesses may have to cease or reduce their operations – threatening jobs and revenue.
It is important to note that our concerns with the current plan should not be construed as our willingness to do nothing on water. I hear from my Southern California colleagues in the Legislature all the time about their need for water and I understand their concerns.
To be sure, the people of our region are willing to do their part. Resolving these long-standing water problems is essential to securing our future prosperity for us all. But we are already under legislative mandate to reduce consumption by 20% by 2020, while coastal areas must only reduce their usage by 5%. It is unfair to ask Northern California residents, business owners and farmers to make more sacrifices and undermine our long-held water rights by swallowing a plan that benefits the rest of the state at our expense.
I am optimistic that by working together and bringing all stakeholders to the table, we can reach consensus on a proposal that we can all support. We all deserve a fair and comprehensive solution, and we can only begin to work toward one when the Governor reconsiders the Bay Delta plan and focuses on one that protects Folsom Lake for generations to come.
Assemblywoman Beth Gaines represents the 6th Assembly District, which includes portions of Sacramento, Placer, and El Dorado counties.