Another View: Update on the Auburn State Recreation Area

By: Mike Holmes, Auburn City Council
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In my last report to you on the status of the Auburn State Recreation Area (Journal, April 17), I provided some historical background on the development of recreation services and facilities in the American River canyon. By 2009 it became clear that there was a potential of Lake Clementine on the north fork would be closed due to reduced federal funding from the Bureau of Reclamation, which has responsibility for the land in the Auburn Dam project area. For some 30 years the bureau has contracted with California State Parks and Recreation to provide resource management, recreation services and facilities in the Auburn State Recreation Area. The bureau also contracted with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for fuels management and fire suppression in the canyon. The Auburn Boat Club played a pivotal role in bringing this issue to the attention of local elected officials. Due to the urgency of the problem we organized a meeting of most of the stakeholders in April 2010 in the Rose Room at Auburn City Hall chaired by Representative Tom McClintock. Present at the meeting were members of Representative McClintock’s staff, then-State Senators Dave Cox and Sam Aanestad, representatives from then-Assemblyman Ted Gaines’ office, State Parks, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Army Corps of Engineers, County of Placer and the City of Auburn. After much discussion Representative McClintock charged the federal agencies to work together to come up with a plan to resolve the issue. A series of meetings were held with local support groups such as the Auburn Boat Club and the Protect the American River Canyon organization to develop a strategy to impress on the Secretary of the Interior and the bureau the need for action. A draft resolution of support was prepared for distribution to public bodies for passage and forwarding to the Secretary of the Interior’s office in Washington, D.C. The Auburn City Council was the first to pass the resolution followed by the counties of Placer and El Dorado, the Placer County Water Agency, the Auburn and Foresthill Chambers of Commerce and others. The Roseville City Council approved the resolution this past week. A public meeting was called in October 2010, at the Placer County Administrative Center (Domes) with a standing room only attendance. Statements were made by state and local officials calling for action by the federal government. A large number of attendees made statements of support during the public comment portion of the meeting. Mr. Mike Finnegan, district director of the bureau, told the audience he would work to resolve the issue. As a result of the outpouring of support to save Auburn State Recreation Area and to reinstate the contracts with state parks and Cal Fire, the bureau has been negotiating long-term agreements with both designed to provide the basis for continued federal support for all the recreation activities in the American River canyon and the prevention of catastrophic fires through proper fuels management especially in the urban-forest interface. Of special note the bureau requested and received a line item in the President’s budget for the Auburn-Folsom South unit of the Central Valley Project for $2.7 million, which would fund our concerns. The district offices of Senators (Dianne) Feinstein and (Barbara) Boxer, and Representatives McClintock, Dan Lungren and Doris Matsui have all been briefed regarding our concerns on this issue. In August 2010 and again in May 2011 I made two trips to Washington, D.C. to gain the support of their Washington-based staffs as well as a positive meeting with a deputy commissioner of the bureau and her immediate staff. While there are some in the Auburn area who doubt the utility of going to Washington, I firmly believe that it serves to demonstrate the seriousness of the issue while not having to pay for a Washington-based lobbyist. Most recently letters from the Auburn City Council and Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery have been sent to the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations urging the committee not to cut the bureau request for $2.7 million from the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2012. Late last week I received news that the Appropriations Committee had recommended $2.654 million be approved by the House of Representatives, a reduction of the bureau request of only $46,000. While there is still a long way to go until final passage by the House and Senate this was a positive step toward final funding for the fiscal year 2012 (Oct. 1, 2011-Sept. 30, 2012).