County Delegation Gets Good News About Auburn State Recreation Area

Placer County officials learned during a trip to Washington, D.C. last week that President Obama’s proposed 2012 federal budget contains almost $2.7 million that would be used to support the Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA).

During the Feb. 15-17 visit, Placer County’s delegation met with several high-ranking officials from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and its parent agency, the Department of the Interior. The main topic of discussion was the recreation area’s funding needs.

Auburn State Recreation Area

California State Parks
The Auburn State Recreation Area.
“We were very pleased with the results of our meeting with the Bureau of Reclamation,” Placer County Supervisor Jim Holmes said, noting that funding in the president’s budget proposal would meet the recreation district’s short-term needs.

The president’s proposal still must be approved by Congress. Supervisor Holmes noted that Bureau of Reclamation officials could not answer questions about meeting the recreation district’s long-term funding needs because of uncertainty over the outcome of future budget battles in the nation’s capital.

The other members of Placer County’s delegation were 2nd District Supervisor Robert M. Weygandt and County Executive Officer Thomas M. Miller.

The funding proposed for the recreation area in the 2012 budget is more than double the $1.4 million in federal funding available to support ASRA this year.

“Reclamation is committed to working in partnership with State Parks, CAL FIRE, Placer County, and other federal, state and local agencies to meet our public safety and environmental stewardship obligations on federal lands at Auburn and Folsom. We especially welcome and appreciate the leadership by city and county officials in that effort.” said Mike Finnegan, Area Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Central California Area Office.

The Bureau of Reclamation has provided funding to the state to manage ASRA for more than 30 years, but has scaled back its commitments in recent years because of its funding constraints.

In the winter of 2009, the Bureau of Reclamation considered returning Lake Clementine to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would have resulted in closing that portion of ASRA. California State Parks manages the recreation area under contract with the Bureau of Reclamation.

Local, state and federal officials have been meeting for more than s year seeking long-term answers to the recreation area’s funding problems. Supervisors Holmes, 5th District Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery and Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes have been active in that effort.

“The news coming out of Washington, D.C. is great and my hope is that the $2.7 million included in President Obama’s budget and in the Bureau of Reclamation request will move smoothly through the House and Senate and will be approved in a timely fashion,” Supervisor Montgomery said. “Whatever the final dollar total may be, it certainly appears that our voices are being heard at the federal level and that by working together we can succeed in protecting this great natural resource in our back yard!”

ASRA is 20 miles long, stretching from near Auburn to Colfax. It covers approximately 31,000 acres along both the North and Middle Forks of the American River and attracts more than 900,000 visitors per year.

One of ASRA’s most popular attractions is Lake Clementine, which was created in the 1930s when the federal government built the North Form Dam to help protect the American River from water-quality impacts caused by hydraulic mining.

ASRA is made up largely of lands acquired by the federal government when it planned to construct the Auburn Dam.

Supervisor Holmes noted that the Placer County delegation met with two Bureau of Reclamation officials in Washington, D.C. who have special ties to ASRA: Director of Operations Robert J. Quint did design work on the proposed Auburn dam early in his career and Regional Liaison Jeri D. Brewer has a grandfather who at one time was dam tender at the North Fork Dam on Lake Clementine.

During this year’s trip, the Placer County delegation had more than a dozen meetings with federal officials.

“We had an exhaustive schedule for three days,” Supervisor Holmes explained, emphasizing that he is convinced the trip will pay dividends for Placer County.

Placer County sends a delegation to Washington, D.C. annually to meet with federal officials about local projects that need federal support. Over the years, the trips have helped secure more than $115 million for Placer County projects.

Topics of discussion during this year’s trip included the proposed Placer County Conservation Plan, the region’s wastewater treatment needs, Lake Tahoe restoration efforts, biomass utilization, the proposed Placer Parkway, other transportation projects and a radio network project that will improve communications among local, state and federal public safety agencies.