By Kathe Malouf
Special to the Sun
As work continues at Isabella’s Auxiliary Dam to seal the water release outlet at Borel Canal, little is being discussed about what will happen to the rest of the Borel Canal that travels across private and public lands.
The Corps of Engineers recently acquired the easement from Southern California Edison on a section of the Borel Canal that runs under Auxiliary Dam. Construction crews are in the process of abandoning the easement as part of the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project. Once the abandonment is complete, that action will effectively cause the decommissioning of the Borel Hydro powerhouse, since the water needed to power the 12-megawatt facility will no longer flow. The action will also abolish the need for the canal.
There are more questions than answers regarding what will be done to the remaining 6.5 miles of the Borel Canal that continues downstream from the outlet at Auxiliary dam. The concrete canal runs adjacent to and through approximately 50 separate parcels, many of which are undeveloped.
Tom and Linda Schwass own two parcels along the canal and have been trying to get answers to their questions for the past 2 years.
“Nobody wants to be held accountable,” Tom Schwass said. “It’s like a pinball machine. Southern California Edison pushes it off to the Corps of Engineers and the Corps pushes it back to SCE, and SCE then pushes it on to FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission). They bounce it around like a pinball back and forth. Eventually, the ball will fall into a hole and it’s forgotten.”
It was during a public meeting in March of 2016 that the Corps first announced to community residents their plan to acquire the Borel Canal easement from SCE in order to abandon and seal it as part of the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project (DSMP). At that time, the Corps acknowledged that the easement abandonment would lead to the decommissioning of the Borel Hydropower Project.
The Corps had identified the Borel Canal as being a safety risk to Auxiliary Dam due to seismic activity and erosion along the conduit. Initially, the Corps considered…