Update: View 10 News interviews on this issue
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria ignores objections over negative impacts including fish kills, fire danger
By Miriam Raftery
November 17, 2013 (Lake Morena) – Unless the County agrees to fork over $1.7 million, San Diego’s interim Mayor Todd Gloria has announced his approval of plans for the City of San Diego to drain down Lake Morena to 2,967 feet and transfer the water to Barrett and Otay Lakes. His decision ignores warnings from Supervisor Dianne Jacob and a report by County Parks and Recreation staff, which warns that such action could have “negative impacts on public safety, the environment, recreation and the local economy.”
In a letter to Gloria on September 30, Jacob wrote, “I can’t emphasize enough that jeopardizing public safety, the environment, and recreational opportunities in turn for a one-time cash savings is the imprudent thing to do.”
When Bob Filner was Mayor, he prevented a proposed draining of Lake Morena. But his successor, Gloria, supports the plan that feeds San Diego's water needs at the expense of residents who value the beauty and recreational opportunities at the reservoir in rural East County.
Jacob opposes the drawdown and noted that the lake is used by firefighters to battle wildfires. She asked that any drawdown be delayed until January. Further, she asked that the city consider a compromise of not allowing the water level to fall below 2980 feet – 13 feet higher than what the City proposes, after already draining water levels four feet earlier this year. She also asked the City to first notify stakeholders, including businesses and residences who might be impacted by drawdown plans.
The County Parks and Recreation report warned that the drawdown could cause massive fish kills, algae blooms, and leave lake view cabins without waterfront views.
Lake Morena, located 46 miles east of San Diego, drew 1600 overnight campers last year who were residents of the City of San Diego and served an estimated 10,000 visitors overall.
But Gloria, in a response dated October 14, informed Jacob that the city intends to go ahead with the massive drawdown “to efficiently utilize local water supply resources and reduce the purchase of expensive imported water. “ He said the city’s plan would leave 113 acres of water surface area for recreational areas, an area about the size of the San Diego Zoo.
To limit the drawdown to the 2980 feet requested by Supervisor Jacob, the City would have to purchase extra imported water, Gloria stated, making clear the City will not foot that bill. Instead, he proposed that the County purchase from the City 2,128 acre feet of water at a cost of $1,716,489 ($807 per acre foot) if the County wants to keep the lake at the level proposed by Jacob.
ECM has asked Supervisor Jacob’s office if such an offer will be considered and to what extent such costs might be offset by recreational user fees that will be lost if the lake becomes undesirable to campers, fishermen and other recreational visitors.
Gloria claimed the City will “continue to notify key stakeholders” of this and future water transfers, btu cited only the Cleveland National Forest, International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
No mention was made by Gloria about notifying area residents or businesses, as Jacob had requested.