LOS ANGELES – To mark a step forward in the effort to restore the aquatic habitat in Lake Elsinore, California, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District met virtually with partners and stakeholders virtually June 7 to commemorate the signing of the Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement for the Lake Elsinore Continuing Authorities Program 206 Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration.
This agreement is between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District, with additional local partnership from the City of Lake Elsinore and the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District.
Lake Elsinore, the natural body of water that shares the name with the city, serves as both a recreational and environmental asset in southwest Riverside County. It is home to more than 250 bird species, sport fish, and native flora and fauna.
Col. Julie Balten, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, expressed her enthusiasm about the project during the commemoration.
“We’re very excited for this program and we feel very fortunate to partner with all of you,” Balten said. “We’re looking forward to working with all of you on a compressed feasibility study so that we can get the construction and project moving. We’re excited about this endeavor and how we can partner with you to do that in the most effective and efficient way we possibly can.”
Rep. Ken Calvert of California’s 42nd Congressional District also spoke during the virtual meeting and communicated his excitement about the project in a follow-up social media post.
“The lake is already home to a number of recreational activities today and there are tremendous future opportunities that would follow ecosystem restoration efforts,” Calvert said. “I’m confident we can all work together to benefit the lake’s water quality, ecosystem, and improve this tremendous asset for the future of Lake Elsinore.”
Participating in the project will allow the agencies to study, design and construct an ecosystem and riparian habitat restoration project on Lake Elsinore.
“This project was five years in the making,” said Phil Williams, president of the EVMWD Board of Directors. “With the tremendous support from Congressman Calvert, we established a partnership with the City of Lake Elsinore and Riverside County to participate in this project. This led to success in securing Army Corps of Engineers financial and technical support.”
The study will be used to identify possible habitat restoration projects for the lake. The agencies are investigating long-term solutions by considering a 100-year planning horizon and evaluating the benefits for the lake that the project would garner over 50 years to improve the lake’s overall health and ecosystem function.
Lake Elsinore is a shallow lake and is subject to significant evaporation and algae blooms, especially in the warm summer months. The lake is fed by runoff from the surrounding watershed. Rainfall in this semiarid region can fluctuate year to year, and lake levels can decrease significantly if rain is not consistent.
To offset evaporation, EVMWD and the City of Lake Elsinore add more than 5.5 million gallons each day of highly treated and regulated recycled water to supplement the lake levels. This helps maintain the lake’s water levels and the water quality.
“I grew up fishing on this lake and I’m still there every weekend,” said Robert E. Magee, mayor of the City of Lake Elsinore. “Maintaining a healthy habitat is not only important for the environment, but the recreation on our lake, making this a top priority for our entire community.”
“As a partner in the management of Lake Elsinore, EVMWD continues to explore ways to increase the value of providing the beneficial water resource in the lake,” said Greg Thomas, general manager of EVMWD. “Outcomes of this study will help us embark upon new ways to invest in our resource in a beneficial way to our community.”
Split among the participating agencies, this feasibility study is estimated to cost up to $1.5 million, with a 50 percent cost share on the part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and contributions of $125,000 from each nonfederal agency over the next two fiscal years. Overall, the Corps can spend up to $10 million on this study and future construction, which is 65 percent federally funded. The study is estimated to be completed in the next two years. Based on the results of the study, the agencies will determine an appropriate project for future construction, which could take place in the next three to five years.