My turn: The power of local control — how ownership of Sly Park makes this possible

By November 01, 2013

Recently, EID celebrated its 10-year anniversary of ownership of Sly Park. A decade ago, EID purchased the Sly Park Unit from the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). Why was this purchase so important, you might ask? It boils down to two words — local control. When the Sly Park Unit was first built in 1955, it was owned by the federal government under the control of USBR, even though from the beginning EID managed and operated the entire unit.

Gaining control of the Sly Park Unit wasn’t easy. It literally took an act of Congress to make it happen. Former Congressman John Doolittle, who represented this district, agreed to sponsor legislation that led to the transfer. It took several years of negotiations with the government to come to fruition. The transfer bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 2000. It took three more years and additional legislation to finalize the transfer in late 2003. We owe a great deal of gratitude to former Congressman Doolittle for his efforts. Fortunately, he was able to join us as an honored guest for the 10-year anniversary event and share his thoughts about the whole process.

With the transfer, EID not only owns the water rights, but also a water treatment plant, 63 miles of water line, two dams, canals, a diversion dam and tunnel, a 7.6-mile conduit, campgrounds, trails, and park land surrounding the lake.

Speaking at the transfer ceremony, EID Board President George Osborne explained that the Sly Park Project was originally conceived by EID in the 1930s to provide a reliable and stable water supply for agricultural endeavors and consumption by the citizens of Placerville. The Great Depression and World War II held it up and it was later constructed, not by EID, but by USBR as part of the American River Division of the Central Valley Project. Groundbreaking was held in the spring of 1953 and the project was completed in 1955.

Now that you have a better understanding about why the Sly Park Unit was constructed, you’ll see why it is best that it not be under the federal government’s control. Because we own it, we control it and we are not subject to unnecessary federal government regulations. In fact, if USBR still owned it, we would have had to close Sly Park Recreation Area during the government shutdown in October.

Perhaps most importantly, our ownership gives us local control over the historical water rights that go with it. With the transfer, EID immediately gained ownership of an annual firm yield of nearly 21,000 acre-feet of water, one half of our total supply. Coupled with the acquisition of Project 184 —t he PG&E power generation assets purchased in 1999 — EID now has local control of over 80 percent of its water supply.

Having local control of our primary water source is very important to EID. It means that we control our destiny. We can do what we know is best without having to ask for USBR’s permission. And last, but not least, we have a beautiful recreational facility that is in our own back yard that is accessible for you and your family’s enjoyment for many years to come.

Jim Abercrombie

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