Public Forum Tonight for Auburn State Recreation Area
October 26, 2010
Contact Information for Elected Officials
Introduction to the evening – Jennifer Montgomery (also moderator for the Forum—comments in italics)
Thank you all for coming out this evening—the turnout tonight is very heartening.
My intent tonight is threefold—first, to give out correct, current information, second, to make clear to our partners at the Federal level the concern this potential closure generates regionally and third to brainstorm and identify ideas that can help fund and save the ASRA.
I want to state up front however, that this is not intended to be a discussion of Proposition 21—the success or failure of that proposition is far too tenuous to address tonight and I will likely cut short any suggestions that we bank on that! This is also NOT a political event and we are not here to bash any of our partners or make political hay!
Before we begin, I’d like to see a show of hands for the various concerned constituencies: If you are with a walking or hiking group, please raise your hand. Bicyclists? Equestrians? Anglers? Rafters or Kayakers? Power Boaters? Runners? Bird watchers? Flower lovers? Gold Panners? Conservation Community members? Thank you and I apologize if I’ve left out any groups, but I wanted to make the point that this issue has widespread ramifications for many, many ASRA users.
I do want to thank my co-hosts Jim and Mike Holmes as well as all the Agencies and representatives of elected officials who are here tonight.
Now, I will turn this over to Jim Holmes for his comments.
Welcome – Jim Holmes. Jim reiterated his commitment to working with all parties to find along term solution to the ASRA funding issue as it has a direct impact on his Supervisorial District.
My involvement with this issue began over a year ago when Ann Holman, our Clerk of the Board and a member of the Auburn Boat Club, and Mike Holmes from the Auburn City Council independently contacted me regarding the looming closure of Lake Clementine.
While the Lake Clementine issue has been partially and temporarily resolved, other larger issues now face us - the possible closure of the Auburn State Recreation Area, and potentially, the Folsom Lake SRA.
My immediate concern is that areas like Foresthill and the Bowman area, which I represent, not to mention the City of Auburn, will see substantial negative economic impacts if the closure proceeds.
I also have grave concerns about the sustainable future of the 25-30 Commercial Whitewater operators in the area who serve about 250,000 paying visitors per year.
I remain deeply concerned about Fire Protection services and will be asking Brad Harris of CAL FIRE to address this topic later. Last and certainly not least I am very concerned about Public Safety and how and who will be patrolling the area if it is closed.
And frankly, what does “Closed” mean anyway? Closed truly means unpatrolled and unprotected, but still open to camping, fires, trash, crime and abuse—things none of us wish to see.
Let me now ask Mike Holmes to give us some background on the area and the issues.
History of Lake Clementine and the Auburn State Recreation Area – Mike Holmes
- In 1962 Lake Clementine was rated among the best of California’s marinas, its success credited to the cooperative management of the area.
- In 1965 the Auburn Dam project was authorized by Congress.
- In 1977 the Auburn State Recreation Area was established with State Parks managing the area ever since, for 33 years. The original budget was $200,000; last year it was $1.4 million and this year down to $1.1 million.
- To keep Lower Lake Clementine operating in the winter months starting on November 1 through to March 1 would require $10,000.
- Review of the multi-agency meeting in April of 2010 and the four options proposed by Mike Finnegan.
- August of this year, Mike Holmes visited Washing D.C., made Senate and Congressional staff aware of the problem.
- Army Corps of Engineers does have recreation at Englebright and Martis Creek.
- It will probably take some non-profit partnerships to help with future funding.
Mike thank you for your report. Mike raises a point that the Corps has maintained that they do not have a recreation component at Lake Clementine. Later, I will ask Christine Rydell for Senator Aanestad’s office to address that point. Christine has done an incredible amount of research into this issue and has a compelling argument that the Corps DOES in fact have a recreation mission at Lake Clementine. I’d like to now ask our Agency representatives who are here tonight to address the issue.
A. Scott Nakaji from State Parks
- The 1977-79 designation of State Parks was as an interim manager of what would be reservoir lands; the result was a long-term presence.
- In 1992 an interim management plan was created which formalized the Bureau’s responsibility to contract with State Parks to manage recreation in the canyon.
- Since 2003 the contract has been on an annual year-to-year basis.
- State Parks feels they are the appropriate agency to manage the area as they have a five-part mission which suits the situation perfectly. They would like to stay on as the provider
- Outfitters – there are 35 in ASRA which bring in revenue;
- Rangers – there are 5 on-site to provide for the public’s safety;
- Maintenance – keeping the area clean and operating the equipment
- Funding – the State provides $300,000 for the OHV areas; in addition the concessions bring in $300,000 in revenue annually.
In order to continue the management arrangement, State Parks has looked for ways to cut costs, but this requires cutting some services, as well.
B. Mike Finnegan, Bureau of Reclamation
C. Bill Haigh, Bureau of Land Management
- 40,000 acres of public lands are within the American River watershed.
- BLM manages recreation within the South Fork and in the North Fork above Iowa Hill Bridge to Lover’s Leap, contracting with State Parks.
- BLM is the second largest land owner within the Auburn Dam Project area, with 11,000 acres.
- BLM is committed to finding a long-term funding solution for ASRA.
D. Chris Fischer, Tahoe National Forest
- USFS owns much of the land adjacent to the Auburn SRA.
- Like others, Chris is very solution oriented and committed to find the solution.
E. Lieutenant Ron Ashford, Placer County Sheriff’s Office
- The main concern for PCSO is that, should the ASRA be defunded, the responsibility of law enforcement for the area would fall to them.
- Like other agencies, PCSO’s funding and personnel have been reduced.
- They would have to take over responding to all calls within the entire 26,000 acres.
- Vandalism and other crimes are likely to increase.
F. Chief Brad Harris, CAL FIRE
- BOR for 30 years had a contract with CAL FIRE to do fire mitigation and suppression.
- This ended 2 years ago and for the past two years the responsibility for fighting fires and doing fire breaks and other mitigation measures was not assigned; it was unclear who would pay for fire suppression in particular.
- This year there is a statewide agreement between the two agencies which addresses the issue of fire suppression; CAL FIRE will assume the costs and BOR will reimburse them.
- The problem still is that fire mitigation funding is not addressed: shaded fuel breaks and fire access roads are not being maintained. There needs to be a way to fund these.
- One way is to recruit within communities, such as Mark D’Ambrogi and Kevin Hanley have done in Auburn with their citizens groups. The fuels must be removed.
- When fuels are removed, then the inevitable fires remain small and manageable.
G. Andy Fecko, Placer County Water Agency
- The Middle Fork Project relicensing process includes assurance of white water rafting and other recreation within ASRA.
- The FERC relicensing is for a 50 year period, so obviously PCWA is in it for the long haul.
Also joining us tonight are representatives from our various elected officials offices: From Congressman McClintock’s Office Norman Gonzalez, from Senator Boxer’s Office, Brandon Ida is present but just to take notes and report back to the Senator—I can report the Senator’s Office has been very responsive and is working toward a potential Federal solution. We have Rob Olmstead from the Late Senator Cox’s office, Christine Rydell from Senator Aanestad’s office, and Jenna Nielson from Assemblyman Gaines Office. Senator Feinstein was not able to send anyone tonight since they have no Sacramento office but we do have a statement, Congresswoman Matsui was invited but was unable to attend. Other elected officials here tonight include Bridget Powers and Kevin Hanley of the City of Auburn.
Elected Officials’ Perspectives
A. Norman Gonzales, Congressman Tom McClintock’s Office
- In 2009, the Congressman started working with Christine Rydell from Senator Aanestad’s office to insure that Lake Clementine would stay open. Norman acknowledged the work Mike Finnegan had put into helping make this happen, along with State Parks.
- The question was how to make the Lake self-funding; increased fees for summer month usage were instituted in 2010 and reduced staffing helped to arrive at the $62,000 operation plan. The $10,000 is only a small piece of the puzzle, vs. all the adjustments that have been made. These adjustments really amount to a subsidy for recreation.
- The $2 million, if that is the appropriate sum, for the management of ASRA, should be to cover health and safety aspects of the operation. If that is what it actually costs to cover health and safety concerns, why is the funding level at the federal level (for these federal lands) reduced to $1.4 and now $1.1 million? It is clear that users should be required to pay for the recreational aspect.
- The Congressman is reaching out to BOR to help them find the needed funding to manage the lands. In order to do this, his staff has asked to see the line item budget for the agency, which is 25,000 pages long, and staff will look through it page by page to find the money for ASRA.
- The next step is to have a long-term contract for the operation of the area. The shortfall is $500,000 to $900,000 currently. This will take a concerted effort by everyone.
B. Christine Rydell, State Senator Sam Aanestad’s office
- The Senator became aware of the problem in 2005 due to the issue of motorized boating on Lake Clementine.
- Christine started her research to prove that the Corps has indeed managed recreation on the Lake; looking through correspondence between the Corps and the Auburn Boat Club since 1952. The total number of visitors that year was 10,967. Colonel C.F.H. Turner wrote that ARD would be allowed to set the prices for oil and fuel (at the time 36 cents/gallon.)
- Senator Thomas Kuchel authorized the Army Corps to allow the Sheriff to purchase and place a patrol boat on the lake.
- ARD records mention Mike Cherry from the Army Corps being “in charge at all times”.
- The question is when that mission to manage recreation on the lake was lose?
- The Auburn Journal of the era has a full page of photos of the lake, which indicates the importance of the area to the City.
- Senator Aanestad supports Congressman McClintock’s efforts to find the long-term solution to the funding problem.
- An important fact is that State Parks asked to boat owners to pay an increase slip fee of $300 each – it is because of these 56 boat owners that all recreation on the Lake is being supported.
C. Rob Olmstead, the Late Senator Cox’s office – only added his support.
D. Jenna Nielsen, Assemblyman Gaines’s office
Read a statement from the Assemblyman, declaring his support of efforts for long-
term funding and his involvement since 2009.
E. Brandon Ida, Senator Barbara Boxer’s office
Supervisor Montgomery is in frequent contact with the office and they are very
supportive of the efforts being made.
F. Bridget Powers, Mayor of Auburn – a strong supporter (and user).
G. Kevin Hanley, Auburn City Council
- Solutions come much more readily when we work as teams; he is an advocate for public/private partnerships.
- Assumptions need to be correct – he questions two that have been proposed tonight:
- The assumption that we have until 9/30/12 is questioned because the possibility
of catastrophic fire in the meantime really means that the deadline is next summer’s fire season; we need fuel reduction in the Canyon. When you look to the area beyond the 300 shaded fuel break that has been created, the forest is dense and unhealthy and therefore a threat.
- The assumption that it will require $2 million to manage the ASRA is also
challenged because the fuel on the ground is so thick. In Kevin’s experience,
the projects for clearing fuel from the area have taken 30 people all day just to
clear one acre. The problem is way bigger than that.
A. Steve Evans, Conservation Director for Friends of the River in Sacramento
- The problem has been recognized since 1980 when there was no further funding available for the Auburn Dam Project.
- The only way to protect the Canyon is to create a permanent entity to fund and manage the area permanently.
- The President’s Great Outdoors Initiative has funded Snow Mountain, Lake Berryessa and the San Gabriel’s recreation effort. That is a bandwagon that may be too late to jump on, but it is clear that we have the equivalent of a National Park right here.
B. Potato Richardson, horseman and user of the area
- Public concessions could be expanded in the park; there is great potential for increasing revenue from the users.
C. Patty Shifferle, with Bob Gilliom, recreationists
- Millions need to be spent to preserve the Canyon; CAL FED is using the area as a watershed workhorse.
- There is stimulus funding available for the purpose; $1.4 has been spent on the Stanislaus; $53 million has been dedicated to the Intertie.
- Resources, fire and public protection all go together. So watershed protection can be the focus to create the funding.
- In Truckee there is a “voluntary” fee charged to each person who comes into restaurants – a $1 fee which mounts up over time. This has also been successful in Ashland. We need such a program to help fund the protection of this watershed.
D. Michael Otten, Placer County Historical Society
- An opportunity to bring attention to the issue is this year which marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of James Marshall.
- Invite El Dorado and Sacramento Counties to participate in naming ASRA a national treasure and elevate it to a National Monument. The President can declare that status with power given to him in the 1907 Antiquities Act. Death Valley was declared a National Monument by President Hoover and did not become a national park until much later.
E. Leslie Warren from the Placer Nature Center
mentioned the recent article in the Sacramento Bee which talked about the ASRA funding crisis and stated that to bring attention to the area, a Visitor’s Center would be a great addition. So in making the appropriations request, add enough to establish a visitor’s center.
F. Jeff Michaels, a project manager
advocated for a plan in writing with a feasibility study, identification of funding sources, milestones, monitoring measures, naming the partners, finding in-kind and dollar contributions from outside government sources, and all aspects of a strategic plan. He would be glad to be a part of such a project.
G. Donn Zea, Western States Endurance runner.
Noted the diversity of interests of the attendees, representing a cross-section of the user population. Auburn is indeed the Endurance Capital, but the Canyon is the soul of Auburn and we need to build on that identity. Runners and riders have an economic impact on the area – in fact, when the ride and run were cancelled due to the fires, it was estimated that represented a $3 million loss for the area. So what is the economic impact that all users represent – what about the value of the volunteer hours involved in maintaining the trails and other aspects of the area. We must take responsibility for our land.
H. Keith Nesbitt
Auburn City Council Auburn did not have the money needed to create the fuel breaks so went to Plan B and instituted Project Canyon Safe. Another way to get people who use ASRA to take an interest in its future would be to establish a Canyon Rim Trail where the users do the maintenance. Another source of manpower could be the inmates in our jails – put them to work in ASRA.
I. Tim Woodall, President of PARC (Preserve American River Canyons)
- PARC has been participating in ASRA for many decades.
- The current crisis is only a symptom of a much larger issue and that is the holding pattern that BOR has been in because they came to build a dam and it is not going to be funded. So the question now is how best to manage and fund the area to its potential for what it is now, for the long-term.
- At PARC, the conclusion is that the best solution would be to transfer the lands out of BOR and into BLM management, a simple step since they are both Department of Interior agencies. BLM has had much experience managing these types of lands. They have had a long-term relationship with State Parks, which has done a fabulous job of managing ASRA lands.
- The next issue to solve is how to get the funds – but this is a national treasure and with all the people and interests represented in this room, it must be doable.
J. Patricia Gibbs
- The area has been in limbo for too long. This is a river environment and the area should be freed up to be managed as such.
- As for funding: a) The Bureau of Reclamation manages the Central Valley Project and gives grants for watershed value – they should be able to come up with funding to preserve this valuable watershed; b) PCWA relicensing involves the use of the river for generating power and thus income for them, but what does this cost the river environment. PCWA should provide a fair share of those costs and should help offset the funding problem.
K. Gordon Ainsleigh, CRAGS (Climbing Resource Advocates of Greater Sacramento)
Gordon advocates for a change in BOR attitude toward climbing. 2.3 million people identify with climbing and many say that the best climbing areas north of Joshua Tree are in ASRA. Yet BOR technically bans rock climbing here because they ban all safety equipment, in the name of safety. Gordon suspects they do this to preserve the quarry for Teichert. And what about the tunnel – a great opportunity, and yet the government spent $100,000 to gate it. We need new and more enlightened leadership at BOR.
L. Tyrone Gorre
The federal relicensing of the Yuba/Bear and Middle Fork Projects will give PCWA and PG&E 50 year control over these waters. Where is the money under the rocks? Who is asking the question and why aren’t we asking for something in return? Also, what about Native Americans and their interests in ASRA?
M. John Brun, Auburn Boat Club
- For 58 years, ABC has been taking care of Lake Clementine.
- If BOR can find $10,000 for the winter management, why can they not find $15,000 for summer management?
- John talked about the trip he took on two wheels through many parks and found that he had to pay the same entry fee as vans with many children inside. The confluence gets no income from the users, and yet they are numerous. Why not charge a day-use fee for these folks to use the river?
N. Mark Root
- Boating season is not over on November 1 – in fact, for some it is just beginning. The lake is beautiful and peaceful. It should be open year-round.
- The rangers have said that charging a user fee to park along the river would be too hard to police, and yet at Yankee Jim’s they will write three tickets for illegal parking.
- Mark’s first choice would be for the Federal Government to fund ASRA, and after that maybe the State, but he would be willing to pay his fair share.
- Poppy Passes are a great way to raise funds that are sure to be used in the area, so Mark advocates we get out and sell them – people don’t know about them, so communication is the key.
Next Steps – Jennifer
In the next month we will be reviewing and collating your comments from this evening as well as any follow up emails or phone calls. Our intention is to have a follow up meeting by the end of this year or at the beginning of next year to evaluate what still remains to be done. I will follow up personally with Senators Boxer and Feinstein as well as Senator Aanestad - I understand that Mike Holmes will be coordinating with Congressman McClintock and that Jim Holmes will be keeping tabs on the process along with our Federal Agency partners. Before you leave, please be sure to pick up the contact list of all the various elected officials from the City on up to our Federal elected officials. Use this list to ask them to identify a specific appropriation for the ASRA on an ongoing basis and be sure to cc Jim, Mike and me on your email.
Identify current and potential economic benefits of ASRA.
Include biking, climbing and all activities; what would the economic losses be funding is cut further?
- Review and collate the comments; email ideas to participants.
- Participants contact their representatives and copy Jennifer, Jim and Mike.
- At the end of 2010, or early in 2011, meet together again to discuss what remains to be done.
- When contacting federal representatives, ask specifically for ongoing appropriation of funding for ASRA.
- Jennifer will follow up with Senators Feinstein and Boxer; Mike will follow up with Congressman McClintock and Congresswoman Matsui; Jim will be in touch with the agencies. – BOR, BLM and State Parks.
- Keep updated by visiting SaveAuburnStateRecreationArea.org, or SaveLakeClementine.org
My thanks to you all for coming out tonight. All we elected officials need to hear how important this is to our region and that a solution must be found. I urge you all to write and email the folks on the list at the back of the room. We can be the force that saves the ASRA for ourselves and others. Thank you again!