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Squeeze is on for San Diego reservoirs

Fishing fees up, El Capitan closed next January

El Capitan Reservoir, two miles northwest of Alpine, is said to be one of the best bass fishing lakes in San Diego.
El Capitan Reservoir, two miles northwest of Alpine, is said to be one of the best bass fishing lakes in San Diego.

It's a blip in the budget, but lake users say a $59,000 proposed funding cut could have a big impact on fishing and other recreation at the city's nine reservoirs

The lakes are part of the municipal water supply, and have doubled as public recreation for more than a century. In recent years, though, the days they are open have been cut and amenities have dwindled.

Even before the pandemic began peeling away outdoor opportunities, a citywide budget reduction in 2019 closed all of the reservoirs an additional weekday each month, alongside the other days they were closed. 

Then in 2023, fees went up. Fishing permits for ages sixteen to adult increased from $8 to $11. They were also raised for 8-16 year-olds and those over 65, and for activities like boat launching.

The lakes have doubled as public recreation for more than a century.


Now the city is grappling with a budget deficit that threatens homeless programs — and the lakes are that much less of a priority.

The lakes fall under the public utilities department reductions to recreational programming, since the department manages their recreational use through the general fund.

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The FY 2025 proposed budget for the reservoir recreation program is $3.1 million – an increase of $146,000 from the previous year's adopted budget, according to a report from the city’s independent budget analyst. 

Revenue from the fees users pay to support the program is budgeted at approximately $1.8 million for FY 2025 — the same as in the FY 2024 Adopted Budget. No staff are budgeted because the general fund reimburses water fund staff for running the program. 

To meet a requirement that all general fund departments submit spending reductions of two percent, the public utilities department submitted a two percent reduction to the recreational program budget, resulting in a reduction of $59,000.

"It is unclear at this time how this reduction will be absorbed." 

Friends of the San Diego Lakes and other advocates have been calling on the city to reverse any reduction in funding for the reservoir recreation program and "the proposed closure of El Capitan Reservoir during the month of January 2025."

El Capitan Reservoir, located about 30 miles northeast of downtown San Diego and two miles northwest of Alpine, is said to be one of the best bass fishing lakes in San Diego.

"More days open, marina, road, docks, facilities improvements and expanding recreation is what thousands of San Diegans that use these lakes want," say the advocates.

The city council's review of the proposed budget is scheduled to continue through May. Final decisions are expected to be made in June.

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El Capitan Reservoir, two miles northwest of Alpine, is said to be one of the best bass fishing lakes in San Diego.
El Capitan Reservoir, two miles northwest of Alpine, is said to be one of the best bass fishing lakes in San Diego.

It's a blip in the budget, but lake users say a $59,000 proposed funding cut could have a big impact on fishing and other recreation at the city's nine reservoirs

The lakes are part of the municipal water supply, and have doubled as public recreation for more than a century. In recent years, though, the days they are open have been cut and amenities have dwindled.

Even before the pandemic began peeling away outdoor opportunities, a citywide budget reduction in 2019 closed all of the reservoirs an additional weekday each month, alongside the other days they were closed. 

Then in 2023, fees went up. Fishing permits for ages sixteen to adult increased from $8 to $11. They were also raised for 8-16 year-olds and those over 65, and for activities like boat launching.

The lakes have doubled as public recreation for more than a century.


Now the city is grappling with a budget deficit that threatens homeless programs — and the lakes are that much less of a priority.

The lakes fall under the public utilities department reductions to recreational programming, since the department manages their recreational use through the general fund.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The FY 2025 proposed budget for the reservoir recreation program is $3.1 million – an increase of $146,000 from the previous year's adopted budget, according to a report from the city’s independent budget analyst. 

Revenue from the fees users pay to support the program is budgeted at approximately $1.8 million for FY 2025 — the same as in the FY 2024 Adopted Budget. No staff are budgeted because the general fund reimburses water fund staff for running the program. 

To meet a requirement that all general fund departments submit spending reductions of two percent, the public utilities department submitted a two percent reduction to the recreational program budget, resulting in a reduction of $59,000.

"It is unclear at this time how this reduction will be absorbed." 

Friends of the San Diego Lakes and other advocates have been calling on the city to reverse any reduction in funding for the reservoir recreation program and "the proposed closure of El Capitan Reservoir during the month of January 2025."

El Capitan Reservoir, located about 30 miles northeast of downtown San Diego and two miles northwest of Alpine, is said to be one of the best bass fishing lakes in San Diego.

"More days open, marina, road, docks, facilities improvements and expanding recreation is what thousands of San Diegans that use these lakes want," say the advocates.

The city council's review of the proposed budget is scheduled to continue through May. Final decisions are expected to be made in June.

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