By JIM MILLER
SACRAMENTO - Go-go growth is expected to more than double Riverside County's population by 2050, making it the state's second largest county.
Only Los Angeles County will top Riverside County and its estimated 4.7 million residents by midcentury, according to new estimates by the state Department of Finance.
"Let's face it, we got the land," said Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, whose district includes Moreno Valley, Perris and other fast-growing parts of Riverside County. "We have to make sure we have the roads, the infrastructure, the environmental mitigation, the water, all these challenges."
The state's population will be nearly 60 million by midcentury, which is 22 million more than today. More than half of the state's residents will be Hispanics, up from 36 percent currently, according to the Department of Finance.
The state report studied demographic trends such as immigration, births and deaths. The estimates did not take into account any shortages that could hold down growth, such as limited water, housing or infrastructure.
All told, nearly one-half of California's population in 2050 will live in five of its 58 counties, all in Southern California -- Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Orange and San Bernardino -- according to the state report.
Riverside County currently is the fourth-most populous, with an estimated 2,031,625 people. San Bernardino County is in fifth place, with 2,028,013.
In California history, only Orange County in the 1960s had the kind of growth that Riverside County is experiencing, said Mary Heim, chief of the Department of Finance's demographic research unit.
"At some point in time, the growth will be like Orange County and taper off," Heim said. "But as long as people are willing to have long commutes in return for more affordable housing, that growth will continue."
State Sen. Jim Battin, R-La Quinta, said he thinks the county maintained its quality of life during recent growth waves. What it will be like in 2050, with more than twice as many people, is still an open question, he said.
"It will present a lot of challenges for the county to make sure we have the facilities and infrastructure that we need and have to adopt policies to recognize that the growth is coming instead of trying to prevent it from coming, because you can't," Battin said.
Reach Jim Miller at 916-445-9973 or jmiller@PE.com
These are projected to be the state's five largest counties by population at midcentury:
1. Los Angeles County: 13.06 million
2. Riverside County: 4.73 million (up from fourth)
3. San Diego County: 4.51 million
4. Orange County: 3.99 million
5. San Bernardino County: 3.66 million (ranking unchanged)
Source: California Department of Finance