Temperance Flat Awarded $171 Million in State Water Bond Funding

$171 Million is Far Less than $1 Billion Sought

News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh

The California Water Commission has granted state water bond funding of $171 million to the central San Joaquin Valley’s proposed Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir project. The action came during a Water Commission hearing recently in Sacramento.

The $171 million award under the state’s Water Storage Investment Program is well short of the $1 billion in funding that had been sought when the application process was launched by the project’s lead agency, the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA), but is still very welcomed.

Mario Santoyo

“It is far less than what we originally asked for,” said Mario Santoyo, SJVWIA Executive Director, “but these state funds remain an important part of Temperance Flat’s financing that we have long looked toward along with federal and local investor funding. We have continued to move steadily forward working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Interior Department and the investor’s group that has taken shape.”

Project proponents were disappointed by a May 4 Water Commission action that turned down Temperance Flat public benefits scoring the project needed to achieve all the state project funding the SJVWIA had sought. They were also surprised by another Water Commission decision to not make available early funding to the SJVWIA for predevelopment environmental and permitting work.

Santoyo said reconsideration of that action may be sought.

“We’re still moving forward and are not giving up,” said Steve Worthley, SJVWIA president and Tulare County Board of Supervisors chairman. “We’re pushing ahead because this project would be a major valley tool in complying with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act along with improving water supply availability and reliability and flood control. Temperance Flat would improve water supplies for disadvantaged communities and urban areas, and create tremendous water management flexibility, not to mention significant benefits for the environment.”

A number of interested water agencies from many parts of the valley are exploring project financing options. The Bureau of Reclamation is pursuing completion of an updated Temperance Flat feasibility study.

Temperance Flat would be located on the San Joaquin Valley above Millerton Lake, northeast of Fresno. The new reservoir would contain 1.3 million acre-feet of water storage space, 2½ times the capacity of Millerton Lake behind Friant Dam.

Temperance Flat is viewed as a vitally-needed means of capturing and storing high flows of water generated in big water supply years. Much of that water is currently being lost to flood releases from Friant Dam due to Millerton Lake’s small storage capacity.

Temperance Flat Denied Funding

All Hope Dries Up

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Again, it came down to fish, specifically Chinook salmon, that forced the proposed Temperance Flat Dam out of the race for Proposition 1 funding for building new water storage projects.

Mario Santoyo and Temperance Flat Denied Funding
Mario Santoyo fought hard for Temperance Flat Dam funding.

For more than 20 years, the Temperance Flat Dam proposal was passionately advocated with unwavering support by Central Valley cities and the San Joaquin Valley Infrastructure Authority (SJVIA) who were behind the application. Temperance Flat came crumbling down Wednesday at the California Water Commission (CWC) meeting in Sacramento on the second day of discussion.

On Tuesday, CWC staff members assigned to crunch the Public Benefit Ratios for the project were solidly encased in concrete, refusing to grant the project any consideration for its ecosystem restoration benefits. The Dam would provide critical cold water to flow down the San Joaquin River, thus helping the salmon spawn.

CA Water Commission kills Temperance Flat funding
CA Water Commission denied funding for Temperance Flat Dam.

And while the official public benefit calculation came up short today, proponents already saw that the project was already on life support Tuesday, with a dire prognosis.

“Stunned is an understatement,” said Mario Santoyo, executive director of the SJVIA, who has worked for more than 18 years on the project. “Temperance Flat is the most critical water project ever proposed for the Central Valley, which is ground zero for significant water shortages that will not go away.”

It all boiled down to the Ecosystem Diagnosis and Treatment (EDT) model that was approved by Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources. Despite both approvals, that model did not jive with the Commission staff’s model, which undervalued the project’s public benefit ratio, killing the opportunity for Temperance Flat Dam to receive funding of more $1 billion for construction.

“We are working in an area of great uncertainty in professional judgment,” Bill Swanson, vice president, Water Resources Planning & Management for Stantec, a global planning and engineering firm, who presented data for the SJVIA. “We do not have fish in the river. We do not have empirical data. The only issue available to us is a comparison of how the system would respond to changes in flow, temperature and habitat,” Swanson said.

“That’s the reason we used the EDT model, the same model that the Bureau of Reclamation has used in their models of flow,” Swanson explained. “The SJVIA’s challenge was how to take the results of that model and analyze them to a level of detail that distinguishes the precision that we might want to have around the results,” said Swanson.

Bill Swanson
Stantec’s Bill Swanson advocated for Temperance Flat Dam funding.

“I’m very disappointed with the way they scored a great project that needed to be built,” noted Santoyo. “And I am not happy about one commissioner from Orange Cove who stabbed us in the back and scolded us on why we did not meet the Public Benefit Ratio. We did meet and exceed that ratio, but the CWC disagreed with our ecosystem restoration model that had been used by both the state and the feds.”

Several Water Commissioners publicly wrangled with their staff on how they could make the project work. They sought areas to increase the project’s cost-benefit evaluation to get it funded.

Commissioner Joe Del Bosque read the ballot text of Prop 1, approved by California voters by 67 percent in 2014. He reminded those present that voters expected a water storage project to be built, adding, “We need to find more certainty in order to get Temperance Flat built.”

Commissioner Daniel Curtain distinguished two parts to the discussion—physical and monetary. “Take a look and see if there is a physical benefit for ecosystem restoration. Finding a potential benefit and attaching a potential monetary benefit could be helpful,” he said.

The project was also short on points for recreation opportunities on what would be a new lake behind the 600-foot high dam east of Fresno, behind Friant Dam. Commissioner Joseph Byrne said he hoped for more thought given to the recreation cost benefit. “Intuitively, zero benefit does not make sense. We need a higher level of confidence in the estimated recreation cost-benefit,” he said.

CWC staff stipulated that while the newly created lake behind Temperance Flat Dam would accommodate boating activity, the lack of camping, hiking, and other activities within the existing San Joaquin River Gorge neutralized any recreation benefits.

If built, the Temperance Flat Reservoir would contain 1.26 million acre-feet of new water storage above Millerton Lake, northeast of Fresno. Temperance would have helped provide a more reliable supply of fresh drinking water for disadvantaged Valley communities. It would have enabled below-surface groundwater recharge, addressed extreme land subsidence and provided critical help to farmers facing severe groundwater restrictions due to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

Santoyo said the SJVWIA spent more than $2 million on the California Water Commission application, utilizing what he said were the most qualified engineers to develop the technical data required by Commission staff. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which administers California’s Central Valley Project for the U.S. Department of the Interior, has invested more than $38 million in studying the project. Santoyo said those studies supported the finding that the selected Temperance Flat site is the most preferred location for such a crucial project.

Supporting Temperance Flat to Increase Groundwater Recharge

Building Above Ground Water Storage Enables Groundwater Recharge

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Dramatically helping to recharge groundwater storage is one of the major benefits of the proposal to build Temperance Flat Dam behind Friant Dam, located to the north and east of Fresno. The new dam would triple the storage that is currently available with Friant Dam. Mario Santoyo, the executive director of the San Joaquin Water Authority, is helping the organization prepare the package to submit to the Water Commission by the August 14 deadline.

“We will be making timed releases to various water districts and amenities that will have groundwater recharging basins,” Santoyo said. “First, we need storage and then some time to move above ground water to underground storage. This is a physics necessity and directly counters those who argue we should not build above ground infrastructure if we need only underground storage. Well, if you don’t have above ground water storage, you ain’t putting any below. It is as simple as that.”

Water in Friant-Kern Canal
Water in Friant-Kern Canal

“There are two water conveyances from Friant and [the proposed] Temperance Flat Dams: the Friant-Kern Canal – the longest of the two primary canals – and the Madera Canal. Friant moves water south to Bakersfield, and Madera conveys it north to Chowchilla.”

“We will have one of the strongest applications to receive monies,” said Santoyo, assuring that the water authority will receive the package on time.

Now this is important,” Santoyo stressed. “A new video, ‘Build Temperance Flat,’ is now on YouTube. The video aims to educate Californians on the importance of building Temperance Flat Dam.” Santoyo urges those who are on social media to send the URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f30o_dQNmn8  “to as many people as you can!”

Temperance Flat Dam is Needed

Temperance Flat is a Sure Way to Improve California’s Water Infrastructure

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Mario Santoyo is the Executive Director for the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority. He spoke to California Ag Today about Temperance Flat, a proposal supported by the Joint Powers of Authority composed of five counties: Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare and Kings County. In addition to those counties, there are representatives from the eastern side cities, (Orange Cove) and western side cities, (Avenal)

“We also have water agencies, such as the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors,” Santoyo said. “The JPA is also in the process of dealing with membership requests by Friant Water Authority and the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority.”

Mario Santoyo

“You can see we’ve got a pretty elaborate team as far as the authority,” Santoyo said. “It was put together in order to pursue funding opportunities both by the state of California and the federal government to build revenue leading towards the construction of the Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir project, which will be located just north of Friant Dam on Millerton Lake, and actually would be built in Millerton Lake … expanding that reservoir.”

The five counties got together on this because they understand fully the importance of creating a more reliable water supply for the area. Santoyo said, “It was proven to be a problem when we had the five-year drought and the Valley had to exercise its groundwater pumping, which plummeted the groundwater levels so much that … it actually resulted in what is now the Groundwater Sustainability Law.”

“So there’s no question this project is greatly needed, and the irony is that this year, coming out of a five-year drought, we’ve got high runoff, and the Bureau of Reclamation had to make flood releases in order to not exceed the capacity at Friant Dam/Millerton Lake,” Santoyo explained. “We fully expect that they will have made up to 2.5 million acre feet of releases down the river to the ocean. Then if you stop and think about what that means, it basically you could roughly say it’s about two years’ worth of water supply for the eastern side of the Valley.”

“There are those who would argue that we would never fill up the Temperance Flat Reservoir,” Santoyo said. “Well, not only have we done it twice this year, we also have a history—a long history—of this … [being] the common scenario.”

When there is high runoff water, it doesn’t come in little bits, it comes in huge amounts. “I think we looked at the record, and 50% of the time that we have high runoff, we usually have to make flood releases in excess of one million acre feet, so that’s why the size that was determined for Temperance Flat was just a little bit over a million acre feet,” Santoyo said.

“Now having that, it’s actually 1.2 million acre feet that it adds to the system. When you add it to … the balance of what’s left with the original, we’re close to 1.8 million acre feet,” Santoyo said.

“It will triple the capacity of Millerton, ensuring that for the future, that [there is] a chance to maximize the available water supply for the cities, for the farms, and most importantly, to recharge the groundwater and put us back into a level that we’re stable and that residents, farmers and others can use that groundwater and not be restricted by the new groundwater sustainability laws,” said Santoyo, adding, “If we don’t solve that problem, the world is going to change dramatically for our farmers, number one, and it will have an immediate effect also on our cities.”

Santoyo describes the recharge opportunities. “What we’ll be doing is with Temperance Flat, we will be making timed releases to various water districts and entities that will have groundwater recharging basins, and they will be syncing it, but you need time,” he said.

“You need storage, and you need time to be able to move water from above ground to below ground. That’s just a physical necessity, and that’s part of the argument against those that argue, ‘Don’t build above, you only need below.’ Well, if you don’t have water above, you aren’t putting it below. It’s just as simple as that,” Santoyo explained.

Temperance Flat would be ideal for the state of California. “The Friant-Kern Canal is the longest of the two primary canals. The other one is the Madera Canal. The Madera moves it north to Chowchilla. The Friant moves it south to Bakersfield, so yeah, those are the primary conveyance systems for farmers and cities,” he said.

Recently a video that educates the public on the value of Temperance Flat, released on YouTube called Build Temperance Flat. We ask all who are active on social media to grab a link of the video and post it on Facebook and Twitter as well as other social media platforms.

Here is the video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f30o_dQNmn8

Temperance Flat Dam Offers Many Important Benefits

Temperance Flat Dam Feasibility Studies Underway

By Laurie Greene, Editor

The San Joaquin Valley Weather Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA), a Joint Power of Authority composed of many San Joaquin Valley cities, counties and water agencies, is charged with the goals of ensuring completion of the Temperance Flat Dam feasibility studies and preparing the necessary bond funding application to get the structure built.

Stephen Worthley, president of the SJVWIA and member of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors said, “The big step for us is going to be the preparation of the application, which has to go to the Water Commission in a little less than one year’s time. So the important focus is to bring together a plan, present it in a way that will make sense to the Commission so they see this project as we envision it—a transformative project for the irrigation waters and the communities of the Central Valley.”

Worthley said when Temperance Flat is built it will be a monumental event. “It would be the first water infrastructure to be built in California in 50 years. It is unique because it will triple the storage capacity of Millerton Lake behind Friant Dam and it will have the unique ability to send water both north and south if needed.”

“This is why the feasibility study done by the Bureau of Reclamation was so important. They came back with the finding of feasibility and that’s what has to happen,” noted Worthley.
“In order to get the funding from Proposition 1, we’re going to have to demonstrate that this project is feasible and it is; and Friant Dam that will be in front of the Temperance Flat dam is just uniquely situated to provide water going north, either in a channel of the San Joaquin River, which may be able to be recaptured and returned south, or along the existing canal, which runs from the Madera Canal, which runs north.

Currently, most water flowing through Friant Dam moves southward through the Friant-Kern Canal.

“And with the extra water that will be provided by Temperance Flat dam is will enable us to major projects throughout the San Joaquin Valley, which is really critical,” said Worthley. “At the end of the day, I think the recharge is going to be as important, if not more so, than the storage and when you look at the feasibility study that was done by the Bureau of Reclamation, that was just purely on storage. They weren’t even considering recharge, so recharge is a whole new addition to that.”

“There are many opportunities of recharge that will be necessary to maintain agricultural pursuit in the San Joaquin Valley because with the Sustainable Groundwater Act, otherwise, without new water, you’re going to see many areas that rely entirely on pumping, are going to have to curtail their operations, either by fallowing the land or farming in a different fashion where they get by with less water,” said Worthley.

“With the drought and severe environmental restrictions, our valley surface water has been critically restricted. That happens two ways. One, of course, is that most of these, well, really all of our communities have their origin in and their continued existence in agriculture so agriculture production is critical to these communities even existing and continuing to exist, but beyond that is the direct need. That’s an indirect benefit, but the direct benefit is that these communities that rely upon Friant water for their potable water supplies, this is going to be a reliable water supply because right now they don’t have reliability,” said Worthley.

Final Feasibility Study Begins for Temperance Flat Dam

Temperance Flat Dam Would Provide Groundwater Relief, Jobs

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Mario Santoyo, executive director, San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (Joint Powers of Authority), described the major and historic event held last week at the Friant Dam regarding the Temperance Flat Dam and California’s future water supply.

“At the event,” Santoyo said, “a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation and the Joint Powers Authority, basically defines what the scope of work is going to be. In essence, it is full cooperation between their technical people and our Joint Powers Authority.  Our people are working on tailoring the application to the state to optimize how much money we get from them. Keep in mind, we’re talking big dollars here; we’re not talking a million or a hundred million.”

Joint Powers of Authority
At Friant Dam, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation and Joint Powers Authority for the Temperance Flat Dam.

Santoyo hopes to receive $1B in funding for the Temperance Flat Dam, although “it is going to cost somewhere around $2.8B. The maximum you could ask from the state is $1.4B. We don’t expect to be getting that because there is a lot of competition and there’s not enough dollars to go around. We’re hoping to shoot for somewhere around $1 billion,” he stated.

“In parallel with our efforts with the state,” Santoyo explained, “we’re working on the federal side with our senators and our congress members to obtain what they call a federal construction authorization—which allows the federal government to move ahead with this project. Then we work on appropriations,” he said.

Santoyo said the funding necessary to complete and complement dollars from the state will be procured in the same fashion as have projects in the past. “The Bureau of Reclamation typically funds the construction of a project and then recovers the cost through long-term water supply contracts or adjustments to existing water supply contracts,” he stated. “In this case, it would be adjustments to existing water supply contracts.”

Santoyo also noted preliminary feasibility studies are underway. Those already completed triggered the final feasibility report, “which is going through a final upper management review before being released to the public. I think we are all pretty confident it will come out in a very positive manner. I would expect that in the next sixty days,” he said.

The expected completion of the project varies. Santoyo estimated physical completion within five years,” but it has to go through design and environmental paperwork, plus legal challenges could cause setbacks as well. By the time you’re good to go, you’ll end up having this project built in probably under 15 years,” he said.

DAM CREATES NEEDED JOBS FOR VALLEY RESIDENTS

Nevertheless, Santoyo said the benefits of the Temperance Flat Dam project is to creates an economic boom and an increase in available jobs. “You’re going to be spending about $3B here for materials, labor, and everything that goes into it. It will be an economic boom; and once it’s built, we get more water reliability, creating a better situation for the farmers, and that creates employment. I wouldn’t look at waiting 15 years, it starts as soon as we start building,” he said.

“The best year for Temperance Flat is when we have high runoff periods, and we have those frequently,” Santoyo elaborated. “What I’ve determined is that there’s a 50% shot every time we have one that we will be dumping more than a million acre-feet into the ocean. That’s equivalent to a full-year of water supply for the east side of the valley. That’s a lot of water.”

DAM PROVIDES GROUNDWATER RELIEF

“The fact is, without this project, we will not be able to meet the ground water sustainability laws that exist because this water will be necessary to move underground to all these regions,” he said. “Right now, as it stands, San Joaquin River Settlement has taken away the Class II water that used by the Friant contractors to replenish the groundwater. Unless we have a means of replacing it, and that would be through Temperance Flat, we’re going to encounter very serious problems,” Santoyo noted.

“Take the typical example of a year in which we can save a million acre-feet in storage. We are not going to keep it there,” he said. “We are going to move it via the canal systems to the various groundwater recharging basins,” which capture and replenish underground water. “It’s not a matter of whether groundwater storage is better [or worse] than above-ground storage; they work in conjunction with each other to maximize storage.”

DAM SERVES A PURPOSE IN TIMES OF CRISIS

“There are a lot of conversations about the San Andreas Fault rumbling. If we had an earthquake, we could have a seismic event in the Delta,” Santoyo said. “What differentiates this project from all the other projects is that we could take Temperance Flat water and go north via the San Joaquin River to the Delta, or south via the Friant-Kern canal, across the valley canal to the California aqueduct then subsequently down to southern California,” he said.

“In a scenario of Delta failure, in which water was no longer moving to the millions of people in Southern California, that would be a crisis,” he stated, “they would be looking for help in any way, shape, and form. Temperance Flat could do that. That’s one of the public benefits being looked at by the California Water Commission, in a category called emergency services. That was written in there specifically because of Temperance’s capability.”

Historic Temperance Flat MOU Signing

Assemblymember Bigelow on Historic July 1 MOU Signing

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

East of Fresno at Friant Dam last Friday, July 1, the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA) and the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate and complete feasibility studies of the proposed Temperance Flat Dam. 

Historic July 1, 2016 MOU Signing for Temperance Flat Dam
Historic July 1, 2016 MOU Signing for Temperance Flat Dam

State Assemblymember Frank Bigelow, 5th Assembly District (serving a large portion of Madera County, along with all the foothill and mountain communities north of Madera to the Sacramento area) noted the critical importance of getting Temperance Flat Dam built to store freshwater for the citizens and farmers of California.

Bigelow, a Madera rancher and farmer of pistachios, figs, and persimmons, said, “This is a huge event to enable us to have additional [water] storage. I just am so thankful to the people who put the water bond forward. Without the money that the people have made possible by voting to support the water bond, none of this would be possible; that’s a clear message.”

Friant Dam and Millerton Lake State Recreation Area
Friant Dam and Millerton Lake State Recreation Area (Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation)

“Without water,” Bigelow explained, “none of our communities would continue to survive in the way they have for years and years. Much of the water we see is being used in different ways; it is not all going to agriculture, and it is not all going to residential. It is going to the environment. So we’ve got to divide that up by the law now, and in equal proportional value.”

“Right now,” he detailed, “Millerton Lake captures 526,000 acre-feet of [fresh] water, but we have millions of lost acre-feet that flow past every year into the Delta, then ultimately to the ocean.” Upon completion, the Temperance Flat Dam would hold more than twice the amount of water that Friant Dam holds—”especially important for capturing freshwater during heavy rain and snow years,” noted Bigelow.

 

JPA Could Save Temperance Flat Dam

Joint Power of Authority Could Save Temperance Flat Dam

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

A Joint Power of Authority (JPA) is being formed to help preserve money authorized for construction of the Temperance Flat Dam with the passage of California Proposition 1, the Water Bond in 2014. Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, has been engaged in getting the project off the ground.

“It is unfortunate what has happened to the Friant Water Authority leadership and the lack of suitable talent there to run with it. The situation has adversely impacted getting a Temperance Flat water storage program in front of the California Water Commission, whose nine governor-appointed members are responsible for advising the director of California Department of Water Resources, approving rules and regulations, and monitoring and reporting on the construction and operation of the State Water Project. The Water Commission, which elicits preferred priorities from the agricultural industry, will award bond money in early 2017.

The Water Bond approved by voters last fall designates $2.7 billion for water storage. While this amount will help subsidize the construction of the dam, Nelsen noted there needs to be better organization in its planning, “because when we negotiated money for storage planning, we were set on two locations, Temperance Flat, behind Friant dam and east of Fresno, and Sites Reservoir, north of Sacramento. Of course, all along, we have known that farmers were investing a lot of money into it as well, but you have to have a plan,” Nelsen said.

Nelsen explained the JPA consists of city and county leaders as well as farm industry leaders from Merced to Bakersfield, including those from Fresno, Madera, Kings, Kern and Tulare Counties, and will require everyone’s cooperation to get the job done. “The inability to sustain some leadership at the Friant system right now has stalled our ability to make something happen in that regard.

“If we can use the talent within our counties right now to generate some of the proposals until we have the ability to get additional water experts online, I would give those who are working on the JPA all the credit in the world,” Nelsen said.

Temperance Flat Reservoir Offers Solution for Flood Years

And Yes, Flood Years Have Always Followed Drought Years

 By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Temperance Flat Reservoir offers a big solution for flood years, said Ron Jacobsma, General Manager of Friant Water Authority, who  spoke at a special California State Board of Food and Agriculture meeting in Sacramento recently regarding solutions to California’s water situation as we may be entering a fourth year of drought.

“The bottom line: We are not in a position to waste any more flood water. We have groundwater overdrafts all over the Valley, and if we don’t start balancing our water supplies from a regulatory perspective, but also managing when we have these generous years, we are going to end up with tens of thousands of prime agricultural land taken out of production,” said Jacobsma.

Jacobsma was focused on the proposed Temperance Flat Dam that would provide an additional 1.25 million acre feet of storage behind Millerton Lake and Friant Dam which holds only 400,000 acre feet.

“We have spilled over Friant Dam more than one million acre feet of water over the years, which ends up going to the ocean, and Temperance Flat would stop this,” said Jacobsma.

“What Temperance Flat will do is enable California to use the water twice. How do you use it in a non-consumptive way for the environment? We can create cold water pools and augment flows on the San Joaquin River. But then we can pick the water back up and move it to where it needs to go, either as irrigation supplies that year, or to recharge groundwater basins. And we have to get in the other side of the aisle–if you will–and start thinking about this,” noted Jacobsma.

“We’re not talking about grabbing as much water as we can even if we really can’t define why we need it,” said Jacobsma. “We need to say, “Let’s find a way to make the consumptive part go to traditional uses like urban and agriculture, but let’s see how we can manipulate the system with more infrastructure so that we can better manage our existing supplies and get ecosystem benefits as well.”

“That’s really the whole fundamental basis of Chapter 8, which refers to the public benefits of the Water Bond that was passed overwhelmingly by voters last November. We have to find that balance because the public is going to pay only for the public benefits.”

“It would be nice if the public paid for Temperance Flat for us, but they’re not going to. And if we can provide public benefits, we can build a broader base of support. So our objective on Temperance Flat is to take the flood water, put it in the Friant system, send it within the San Joaquin Valley with partners because we are going to have to move some water around, have some flood control, and get some recreational benefits out of it.”

“But if we are going to spend a billion dollars plus trying to get a fishery on the San Joaquin River that has not been there for 60 years–a fishery that is dependent on cold water–why wouldn’t you invest in Temperance Flat and get multiple uses out of it?”

“It is going to take some time to build those coalitions. First you have to build local support, then regional support, then broader state-wide support. That is the kind of effort that we are going to have to go through,” Jacobsma noted.

 Protecting Investment

“The other consideration with regard to Temperance Flat is how we would protect the water it stores. If we get into an operational plan, how do we protect ourselves? If our water users spend more than a billion dollars on surface storage, just to have some regulation or  law passed demanding half of the yield, but we’re stuck with that price tag, that’s a huge risk for our guys,” noted Jacobsma.

“So we also need the certainty that whatever we develop will be available for us for a definitive amount of time–you know 40, 50, 100 years,” Jacobsma said. “We have to know that the money is going to be well spent in paying dividends down the road. And we will commit under the operations plan to provide the ecosystem benefits that we agreed to.”

 

 

Friant District’s ‘Zero’ Disaster Mounts

Parched Trees Being Pulled in Friant Division As Senior Rights Water Releases Begin

 

Zero remains the frustrating word for Friant Division growers who continue to have no Central Valley Project water to use and, in many cases, little or no groundwater available to tap in their desperate efforts to save increasingly moisture-stressed permanent plantings along the south valley’s East Side.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s zero water supply declaration remains in effect for the Friant Division, even as Reclamation increases the Friant Project’s first-ever CVP supply releases to get water to the San Joaquin River’s senior water rights holders downstream, the Exchange Contractors, even though the Bureau has other sources from which to make the exchange supply available.

A Friant Water Authority news release, which gained some national news coverage May 15 when the river releases started, said that date was probably “the darkest and most frustrating day in the eastern San Joaquin Valley’s long and complicated water history” and laid the blame squarely on federal regulatory factors that did not exist in the past’s worst drought events.

In districts along the Friant-Kern Canal with no usable groundwater and which rely entirely on CVP water diverted at Friant Dam from the San Joaquin River, ever-increasing numbers of permanent plantings – mostly orange trees – are already being taken out as more and more growers bow to what they see as the inevitable.
Tens of thousands of acres covered by trees remaining in those districts are doomed to die by late summer if they receive no water. Also promising to wilt are economies of dozens of farm communities and rural areas as jobs are lost, lives and opportunities are uprooted along with trees, and local and regional business, social and civic institutions also find their means of support lost.

A preliminary estimate of losses in just the citrus industry alone has been listed at some $3 billion over the next five years, including crop losses, removal of groves, preparations for replanting and waiting for young trees to commercially produce.

Start of Exchange Releases

Friant’s dispute with the United States government over how Reclamation is managing the river system’s complex water exchange reached the tipping point May 15 when the Interior Department agency began sending water down the river after Reclamation announced it was “unable” to provide the Exchange Contractors with their substitute supplies of Delta water.

That substitute water for the better part of the last seven decades has made possible Friant-Kern Canal and Madera Canal diversions at Friant Dam, as agreed upon in decades-old CVP contracts.

The Friant Water Authority has made it clear its members fully respect and abide by the Exchange Contractors’ senior water rights, which date back to 19th century filings by the historic cattle firm Miller & Lux.

However, Reclamation has more than 200,000 acre-feet of CVP water stored in San Luis Reservoir and is also maintaining increased CVP storage in Lake Shasta. The Bureau decided to use some of these supplies for south-of-Delta wildlife refuges, which primarily benefit migratory waterfowl such as ducks, rather than supplying it to the four agencies known as the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors. Refuges are to receive 178,000 acre-feet, and Reclamation estimates that it will provide the Exchange Contractors with 529,000 acre-feet from April through October, using a combination of the CVP’s San Joaquin River supplies and north state water pumped from the Delta.

Senior Water Rights

Friant Division contractors asserted in newly-filed litigation that CVP agreements and senior water rights should compel Reclamation to deliver water to the Exchange Contractors as has always previously been done, from Lake Shasta, the Delta and San Luis Reservoir. (See related story.)  Lake Shasta storage continues to be enhanced by a few hundred thousand acre-feet of water that the National Marine Fisheries Service has stubbornly reserved under a biological opinion for cold water preservation to benefit Chinook salmon later this year.

Friant believes there is no evidence that Reclamation has ever requested consultation on its mandatory performance of the Exchange Contract, and thus, there is no basis for withholding this water under an inapplicable biological opinion.

Friant also contends that the United States is not respecting the Exchange Contractors’ senior rights as a result of Reclamation’s decisions to reserve CVP water in Lake Shasta and San Luis Reservoir for use by junior water rights holders. (Please see summary of Friant’s litigation claims.)

This third year of critical drought conditions has dramatically reduced natural San Joaquin River runoff, meaning that the water Reclamation is releasing to the Exchange Contractors is permanently lost to Friant Division use. Projections are that the river releases may consume most of the river’s remaining supply. The San Joaquin River Restoration’s interim flows were suspended in February because of the drought and are not currently a factor in the lack of Friant supply availability.

Ironically, the San Joaquin River water now being released has always been at the heart of the Friant Division’s supply. In the late 1930s, Reclamation signed a “purchase agreement” and an “exchange of waters” agreement, enabling the agency to divert water at Friant Dam.

In exchange, the Bureau agreed to provide the territory formerly within the massive ranch of the old cattle firm Miller & Lux with a substitute supply of water from the Delta, delivered through the Delta-Mendota Canal.

The old Miller & Lux rights continue to exist and belong to the Exchange Contractors.

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