Mario Santoyo: Recent Temperance Flat Dam Memo is Misleading
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor
A recent memo to the City of Hanford, issued by the Townsend Public Affairs office in Washington D.C., stating the Temperance Flat Dam proposal may not be eligible to receive Proposition 1 funds, was deemed “misleading” according to Mario Santoyo, executive director of the 11-member board of the Joint Powers of Authority that oversees the proposed Temperance Flat Dam.
The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management’s 2014 decision to recommend designation of an 8 mile segment of the San Joaquin River (accompanied by a restricted-use river corridor extending 0.25 miles from the edge of the identified river segment) that falls in the footprint of Temperance Flat as a “National Wild and Scenic River,” has been a concern for awhile, noted Santoyo. “This memo is very misleading,” he said. “It has nothing to do with state bond funding”—California’s Proposition 1 (Prop 1), the legislatively-referred Water Bond (Assembly Bill 1471), passed by state voters on the November 4, 2014 ballot.
“But if the [recommended] designation stays in place,” Santoyo continued, “it would prevent us from building Temperance Flat with any funding. Whether with state funding, federal funding or Prop. 1 funding, it does not get built—period,” Santoyo said.
“To be eligible for Prop 1 funding, you have to have a feasibility report,” said Santoyo. “In other words, the federal government has to determine if the project is feasible under Prop. 1 money.” However, doing the feasibility report is part of doing the environmental paperwork. And, if at the end something changes on the conditions that were originally evaluated, then the project could be determined unfeasible.”
“But none of this has happened,” emphasized Santoyo, as the recommendation of this San Joaquin River segment to be designated National Wild and Scenic River has not yet been legislatively authorized. “We are perfectly aware of that hurdle. The designation is one of many things that we have to deal with.”
Santoyo said there would be a discussion this week with the regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation to talk about the Scenic River designation, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as well as technical partnership. “There are a series of things that need to happen to keep advancing the ball,” Santoyo said.
And even though the proposed Sites Reservoir is not subject to the Scenic River designation, it has not passed the feasibility study. “So it even has its challenges,” said Santoyo.
“All the projects have big challenges, but the question is: Do you keep moving forward regardless of how hard the issues are or do you just fold the first time you hit a bump? We are not folding; we are moving forward,” Santoyo said. “Either we shoot hard for currently available options or we shut down and do nothing. Why go through 10 years’ worth of effort to give us this opportunity and not take a shot?” he asked.
Editor’s Note: Several calls to James Peterson, director of the Townsend Public Affairs federal office were not returned.