By Jesse Saich, El Dorado Irrigation District
The El Dorado Irrigation District was recently awarded three significant grants to help manage vegetation and protect against wildfire at some of its core water and hydroelectric facilities most at risk for wildfire. Cal Fire granted EID nearly $2 million to implement necessary fuels reduction projects to protect three EID facilities: Camp 5/Flume 46 ($280,500), Sly Park ($403,425), and Weber Reservoir ($1,279,080).
“Reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire at these facilities is critical to the protection of EID’s vital infrastructure that provides water to the residents EID serves,” said EID Operations Director Dan Corcoran. “At the same time, these projects are aimed at protecting watershed health to maintain water quality and quantity while also providing for a multitude of other environmental and recreational resources.”
In 2014, the King Fire scorched nearly 100,000 acres includes areas inside and adjacent to EID’s Camp 5 complex where dead and downed woody material remains a significant fire hazard near critical infrastructure. The King Fire cost taxpayers an estimated $5 million each day to fight and suppress. The fire required more than 4,000 fire fighters and an estimated 450,000 gallons of fire retardant. According to a L.A. Times article in 2015, total suppression costs exceeded $100 million making it one of the most expensive California wildfires on record.
These costs do not include any restoration efforts, which now are costing public and private timberland managers along with many other land owners, including water purveyors, millions of dollars annually. Responding to those events, EID has worked with its public and private watershed partners to invest improving forest health and fuels management using a combination of local, state, and federal funds. Although EID maintains one of the longest running vegetation management plans with Cal Fire at its Sly Park Recreation Area, similar efforts are needed elsewhere throughout EID’s service area. These three projects expand on new areas within Sly Park, the largest of EID’s water supply reservoirs and backbone of the western county’s water supply.
The Camp 5/Flume 46 Vegetation Management Project grant monies will fund needed fuels reduction and vegetation management treatments within 74 acres of EID-owned parcels at Camp 5 and Flume 46 along the El Dorado Canal. The Camp 5 complex is EID’s El Dorado Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project No.184) maintenance facility situated along the north side of Highway 50 just east of Pollock Pines. Camp 5 is surrounded by residential neighborhoods with a number of private homes immediately adjacent to the facilities. Flume 46 is a three-quarter-mile-long wooden flume susceptible to wildfire and is a key segment of the open water El Dorado Canal system, particularly during the high drinking water demand and fire season.
The Sly Park Vegetation Management Project will reduce vegetation in a fuel reduction zone of 118.5 acres along the perimeter of Jenkinson Lake and 75 feet wide along both banks of the three primary tributaries in Sly Park Recreation Area in Pollock Pines. Sly Park serves as a primary source of water for western El Dorado County, including the communities of Placerville, El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park. Work will be concentrated around previously unaddressed areas of Jenkinson Lake and protect more than 3,000 homes in the adjacent communities of Pollock Pines and Fresh Pond while also protecting critical EID water conveyance infrastructure from wildfire threat.
The Weber Lake Vegetation Management Project will reduce hazardous fuel vegetation along the north side of Weber Reservoir, a key component to the water supply portfolio for the El Dorado Hills area. Fuels reduction around the reservoir is designed to mitigate the wildfire threat to the adjacent communities of Camino and Pleasant Valley and nearby communities of Pollock Pines and Placerville, while also maintaining the quality of water entering into and through the reservoir for release and rediversion at Folsom Reservoir to serve EID’s customers in the El Dorado Hills area. The Weber project will, in total, treat 377.5 acres of land surrounding the reservoir.
“This partnership with Cal Fire and other key watershed stakeholders will help protect critical water infrastructure and maintain EID’s water quality while also helping to maintain a fire resilient landscape to guard against the potential for catastrophic wildfire that we see far too often,” said Corcoran.
“We want to learn from the unfortunate lessons of others affected by catastrophic wildfire and work with our partners throughout the South Fork American and Upper Cosumnes watersheds to protect our critical infrastructure and water quality while also doing our part to help protect our community.”
EID provides the primary source of drinking water to much of western El Dorado County and Sly Park and the El Dorado Canal are the primary water conveyance systems used to transport water for storage and delivery throughout its service area.