It was good to see former Congressman John Doolittle at Sly Park again. Ten years ago the congressman completed a 10-year wrestling match with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to finalize the sale of Jenkinson Lake, its water rights, the Sly Park recreation area and various reservoir appurtenances to the El Dorado Irrigation District.
The price for the 41,000 acre-foot reservoir was $8.6 million for what was originally opened in 1956 as part of the Central Valley Project. The bonds for that will be paid off in about five years. Getting complete local control of that facility is invaluable. Having a congressman who actually got things done for his district — instead of spending all his time making floor speeches like our current representative — was also invaluable.
At the Oct. 7 function it was also pointed out by EID Board President George Osborne that the district has been able to keep Jenkinson Lake at a high level through most of the summer by supplementing it with Project 184 water.
Project 184, so designated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is a system of four alpine reservoirs in three counties, 22 miles of canals, flumes and tunnels fed by a diversion dam on the South Fork of the American River and a eventually running a 21-megawatt powerhouse. The delivery system was completed in 1876 and the powerhouse in 1924. Project 184, which generates an average of $8 million in revenue from the powerhouse, provides EID customers with 15,080 acre-feet of water and another 17,000 acre-feet of water rights.
Project 184 water can be shunted into Jenkinson Lake via the Hazel Creek Tunnel, which was the brainchild of the late Mark Nielsen when he was on the EID board. Also probably forgotten was that Nielsen also got the EID board to declare a water hookup moratorium when he first got on the board. That prompted EID to thoroughly assess its water resources and encouraged Serrano to use recycled water for landscaping.
EID acquired Project 184 from PG&E in 1999, followed by Sly Park in 2003. Owning its own water facilities and associated water rights is invaluable and an insurance policy for future generations. It’s a real success story.