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Diamond Valley Lake’s East Dam Named in Honor of Metropolitan Water’s Carl Boronkay
Officials, family members and former water colleagues of Carl Boronkay on Oct. 16 gathered at Diamond Valley Lake’s East Dam to unveil a plaque dedicating the Carl Boronkay East Dam at the Hemet lake in honor of Metropolitan Water District’s (MWD) former general manager and general counsel. Boronkay is regarded as a water industry pioneer who helped transform Southern California’s approach to water management, and thereby strengthened the region and better positioned it for the future.
“Southern California is stronger today because of the visionary leadership of Carl Boronkay,” MWD board Chairwoman Gloria D. Gray said. “During his tenure as general manager during the 80s and 90s, he led the way for the board to ultimately choose this site for what was then the Eastside Reservoir Project.”
Built between 1995 and 1999, Diamond Valley Lake is the transformation of three earth-and-rock-filled dams enclosing two adjoining valleys. It is now two dams adjoined by a 130-foot-high “saddle” dam that fills a half-mile-long dip in the mountains ringing the northwest side of the lake. The Carl Boronkay East Dam is 185 feet high and 2.1 miles long. The Don Owen West Dam is 285 feet high and 1.6 miles long.
Boronkay joined MWD as assistant general counsel in 1976 and was promoted to general counsel in 1980. Appointed as general manager in 1984 Boronkay served as MWD’s chief executive for nine years before retiring in 1993.
Gray continued her praise of Boronkay and his tenure with MWD saying, “He helped shepherd the project through the environmental review process, and brought to fruition the invaluable reservoir before us. Today, Diamond Valley Lake provides important recreational opportunities and crucial storage for Southern California, giving the region a vital lifeline in times of drought and emergency.”
In addition to forging new paths and policies, Boronkay was also a mentor to many of his junior colleagues including retired executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Timothy Quinn and MWD’s current General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger. While still ACWA’s executive director, Quinn submitted the nomination to MWD for a facility to be named in Boronkay’s honor.
“Carl Boronkay was a true giant in California water management. At a time when it was critical to rethink how we manage water in the state, Carl seized the moment and changed the direction of water management, not only for Southern California but for the entire state and our region,” said Quinn. “On a more personal level, Carl was my mentor and the mentor of many other young professionals who have become leaders in California water.”
Kightlinger shared in Quinn’s sentiments of Boronkay saying, “Carl was the first in a new generation of water leaders,” Kightlinger said. “Until his time, the water industry was engineering-focused. He knew that we also needed to focus on water management. For Metropolitan, that meant we had to diversify our supplies and build a strong and adaptive water portfolio to meet future needs.”
Kightlinger acknowledged that Boronkay encouraged him to pursue the position he now holds with MWD.
Boronkay’s son, Drew, a risk management manager at MWD, spoke on behalf of the family at the Diamond Valley Lake dedication event saying, “Our family is so proud of Carl for his leadership, vision and dedication to Metropolitan. We know that dad would be so happy and humbled to receive this honor, and would be the first to acknowledge the many great people who worked so hard to turn ideas like Diamond Valley Lake into realities.”
Under Boronkay’s leadership, MWD saw a number of ideas and concepts to competition including the Local Resource Program, which ushered in a new era of water recycling and groundwater recovery. The Local Resource Program fostered MWD’s investment of more than $500 million in local supply projects, strengthening the region against drought and climate change. He was also an early proponent of agriculture/urban partnerships and worked to foster those relationships.
Boronkay was born in Bronx, NY, and was the father of two and grandfather of four. He passed away in 2017.