Folsom Lake all dried up

Reservoir nearing half capacity
By: Brad Smith, Gold Country News Service
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In June Folsom Lake was full, but downstream requirements and depleted reservoirs elsewhere in the state have caused the lake to drop to below 54 percent capacity.

On the bright side, the lake was more full and stayed higher for longer this summer, according to Ken Christensen, manager of the Folsom Lake Marina at Brown’s Ravine. He said the difference between 2009 and 2008 has been “significant.”

“(It’s been) very good. The last two years have been rough but (this year) it’s better,” he said.

He said many people have been taking advantage of the water and the milder summer. “I think the late season rains helped us out a bit. Yes, it’s been hot — but not like last summer or the one before,” he said. “Folks have really been enjoying the nicer weather.”

Fishing, he added, has also been very good.

“A lot of anglers have been really happy with their catches. It’s better than I’d expected,” he stated.

Karen Holmes, owner of Karen’s Bakery in Folsom’s Historic District, said that her business has been doing fine this summer.

“Compared to the last few years, it was good. But while we’ve had a great season,” she said, “I think (the lake) isn’t the only factor.”

Holmes said many have been taking advantage of Folsom’s other activities, including biking. “Our town’s a regular ‘bike city.’ We’ve had a lot of bicyclists among our clientele.”

Mike Hountalas, owner of the Purple Place in El Dorado Hills, said that his restaurant’s business has also been on the upswing, despite summer typically being a slow time for the eatery.

“Fifteen percent of our customers are boaters or anglers, to the best of my knowledge,” he said.

Holmes and Hountalas said that once Folsom Lake’s summer season wanes, it won’t have a major impact on their respective businesses.

While Folsom Lake had a better season than it did last year, Christensen said, “Things will be dropping off from here on out.”

That’s because water levels are dropping. As of Aug. 13, the water level was at 419 feet above sea level and a year ago on the same day, it was 391 feet.

“It’s dropped more than 40 feet since June,” Christensen said, “and it’s still dropping.”

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation advised the marina to have owners get their boats out of the water by Aug. 25.

At the rate the water’s dropping, Christensen said, it’d be hard for those boats to be docked at the marina.

“There are other places on the lake where people can boat,” he said. “But, the marina isn’t one of them.”

He added that while boating is still allowed on the lake, when the water level hits 412 feet, a speed 5 mph speed limit would be imposed on all watercraft.

Don Smith, Folsom’s water management coordinator, said that the city will remain at a stage two conservation level despite the dropping water level.

“As of now, the city will continue its stage two protocols,” Smith said. He has been monitoring the situation. “For us to implement (stage three), things will have to get very drastic.”

“Drastic,” Smith elaborated, meant a major water emergency in the Central Valley Project, the water distribution network that includes Folsom Reservoir. “I think the milder summer has had a positive impact on our water issues. Yes, we’re still in a drought and a state of emergency. Yes, we need a lot of moisture this fall and winter.”

But, he’s not worried about the lake — the city’s water source — or its dropping levels.

“Despite everything, our water supply is secure and there’s no danger of further rationing. We’re doing fine and I don’t foresee any problems,” Smith said.

As for Ken Christensen, he said that he’s looking forward to a long, wet winter.

“That’s something that will really make my day,” he said.

For more on Folsom Lake and the people who use it for recreation, see "Folsom Lake still a draw despite low level."