The first hour of the Nov. 12 meeting of the El Dorado Irrigation was a praise session for the two retiring directors, George Wheeldon and John Fraser, both of whom served 12 years and each served as board president two times.
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Duirng the time he was board president, George Wheeldon oversaw completion of the repair and restoration of the Lake Aloha dams, lining and covering of the district’s open reservoirs, emergency repair of the Silver Lake outlet works, the Ditch System Master Plan, acquisition of federal funding for the recycled water system and its Sly Park water system, restoration of Caples Lake trout fishery, formation of the El Dorado Water and Power Authority and resolution of final legal objections to EID’s Project 184 operations, according to a resolution prepared by General Counsel Tom Cumpston.
One of the more interesting recollections and praise came from retired associate chief forester and wine grape grower Doug Leisz, who recalled that Wheeldon was the ski coach for El Dorado High School when he first met him.
Wheeldon said that Leisz’ son was on his ski team at the time when Leisz was supervisor of the Eldorado National Forest.
“He asked what I did in the summer. He hired me for the Forest Service as a geologist. It launched my geology career,” Wheeldon said.
Wheeldon has taught science and geology for 52 years, 46 of them at the El Dorado Center, now a branch of Folsom Lake College. He also had a consulting business as a geologist, doing perk tests for septic systems.
Wheeldon’s long association with the college enabled him to get a program established to train water and sewer plant operators.
“Because of George Wheeldon the district is able to fill positions we have never been able to fill (with certified plant operators),” said Vickie Caulfield, wastewater/recycled division manager.
The resolution noting John Fraser’s accomplishments as board president include emergency replacement of the Pleasant Oak Main, the Hazel Tunnel repair, emergency repair of the Echo Lake Tunnel, the El Dorado Hills Wastewater Treatment Plant solar photovoltaic project, the Sly Park Master Plan, the Caples Lake Boat Launch facility, the EID-Forest Service land exchange and the Ditch/Weber Dam Warren Act contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Fraser had served two decades as executive director and general counsel of the Association of California Water Agencies, a name change he sought from its former identification as the Irrigation Districts Association. Fraser, armed with the new name, doubled the memberships to include more than 400 agencies that deliver more than 90 percent of the state’s water. It is an association that carries a lot of clout now.
Fraser also led ACWA to have its headquarters in Sacramento and open an office in Washington, D.C. He also established the Water Education Foundation and the ACWA Joint Powers Insurance Agency.
He also served in the Army from 1953-55.
Director Bill George praised the diverse background of the board members. “I enjoyed working with John and George; John being an attorney, I don’t hold that against him. He’s been a joy to work with,” George said.
“The last few years have been very interesting,” said Director Alan Day. “Their knowledge of water here and in the state has been invaluable.”
“These guys came along when this board was in turmoil,” said Board President George Osborne. “These guys came in with their civility and sense of humor.”
“We have better security in the water system that we didn’t have 10 years ago,” said Leisz, who also praised the board’s successful pursuit of its water rights and confirmation of a range of various water rights from farmers’ ditch systems and rivers and streams along the 22-mile flume and canal system.
Taking over Wheeldon’s Division 4 seat at the Dec. 9 meeting will be Dr. Dale Coco, 67. Taking over Fraser’s Division 2 seat will be Greg Prada, 68. Their terms will be four years, with the next election for Divisions 2 and 4 in 2017.