McCarthy Statement on Site Selection of a New Visitor Center in Lake Isabella
On June 28th, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Sacramento District and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Sequoia National Forest completed the required environmental reviews and selected a location (6212 Lake Isabella Boulevard) for a new USFS Visitor Center in Lake Isabella. This new Visitor Center will replace a USFS structure that was demolished as part of the Isabella Dam Safety Modification Project.
McCarthy released the following statement:
“As California emerges from the pandemic and life returns to normal, tourism in the Kern River Valley, a major staple of Lake Isabella’s economy, will increase. Having a new, permanent Forest Service visitor center in our community will help ensure visitors to the area can learn about all of the recreational opportunities in and around Lake Isabella, and provide a convenient location for residents to obtain various Forest Service permits.
“Completion of the environmental reviews and selection of a site for this visitor center is a critical step forward, marking the beginning of the end of the long-pending project. I look forward to continuing to work with the Army Corps, Forest Service, Kern County officials, and local leaders in this new phase of the project and to the day when the new visitor center is opened to the public.”
Community leaders provided the following statements on the USACE and USFS completing environmental reviews and selecting a site for a new, permanent USFS Visitor Center in Lake Isabella:
“On behalf of the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce, I want to thank Congressman McCarthy and the Army Corps of Engineers, United States Forest Service, and Kern County officials for the hard work and dedication over the past years to ensure the Kern River Valley once again has a visitor center insight. We are looking forward to the design phase of this project, along with the groundbreaking in the not too distant future. This building will be main point of interest for the many tourists who enjoy our valley annually.” –Fred Clark, President of the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Member of the Lake Isabella Dam Task Force
“Kern County is a place of astounding natural beauty, rich history, and unparalleled recreational opportunity. The Kern River Valley is one of our crown jewels, and continues to draw visitors from around the world. The new USFS visitor center will provide an outstanding opportunity to help us showcase all that we have to offer, and share the many things that make Kern County an amazing place to visit. I would like to thank Congressman McCarthy and all the leaders who have worked to make this project a reality.” –Supervisor Phillip Peters, Kern County, First District
- Nearly a decade ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started the Isabella Lake Dam Safety Modification Project to mitigate and repair seepage and seismic issues at Main and Auxiliary Dams at Lake Isabella.
- To make repairs to the dams, a USFS facility located on Engineer’s Point was demolished over 5 years ago. Since then, visitors and residents have been able to get certain permits and information at a small, temporary location in the Sequoia National Forest Work Center just north of downtown Lake Isabella.
- Congressman McCarthy secured language in the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (Section 312 of Public Law 116-260) giving the USACE the authority to review sites, acquire property, and build a new, permanent USFS Visitor Center in the downtown Lake Isabella area.
- In the Final Supplemental Environmental Assessment on the Permanent Relocation of the U.S. Forest Service Visitor Center, the USFS and USACE identified 6212 Lake Isabella Boulevard, the location of the currently-empty Bank of America building, as the preferred location for the new, permanent USFS Visitor Center.
- Per a timeline provided to Congressman McCarthy by the USACE this past April, real property acquisition and design work for this new center can begin now that the environmental reviews are complete. Construction is slated to commence in March 2023 and, upon completion, the new facility will be turned over to the USFS for operation and opening to the public.
- At the new, permanent USFS Visitor Center, residents and visitors to the area will be able obtain fire and wood permits, maps and other local information about the Sequoia National Forest, and annual visitor passes for federal lands in the region.