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.

A Second Major Blow For Temperance Flat Dam

Water Commission Staff Again Slaps Down Temperance Flat Project

Editor’s note: In a stunning decision, California Water Commission staff, once again, rejected the Temperance Flat Dam Proposal. The San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, which is managing the planning and building of Temperance Flat Dam, issued the following statement:

Water users, counties, and cities across much of the San Joaquin Valley have again found the California Water Commission staff to be unbending over efforts led by the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA) to both develop Temperance Flat Dam and create badly-needed additional San Joaquin River water storage in a major new Central California reservoir.

Mario Santoyo, the Executive Director of the SJVWIA is stunned by the California Water Commission’s staff’s decision.

The Water Commission staff today reacted to the SJVWIA appeal in February of an earlier very low public benefit ratio score by assigning only a token improvement in point totals. Temperance Flat’s public benefit ratio was increased from 0.10 to 0.38. A score of 1.0 has been generally considered a minimum for an application to advance, reflecting the bond measure’s emphasis on benefits stressing the environment and flood protection.

Temperance Flat, which would be a reservoir containing 1.3 million acre-feet of new storage space above Millerton Lake northeast of Fresno, is one of the state’s two largest proposals seeking to be awarded some of the $2.7 billion in Proposition 1 funding for new storage projects.

The SJVWIA, in its application, calculated the Temperance Flat Project should have a public benefit ratio of 2.38. In its appeal, the SJVWIA sought a total of $1.055.3 billion in Proposition 1 funding under the Water Storage Investment Program but the latest CWC staff action would yield, if granted by the full commission, just over $177 million.

The other large proposed project, Sites Reservoir in Northern California, was similarly rebuffed.

“Once again the California Water Commission staff has hijacked what the people of California wanted and voted for,” said SJVWIA Executive Director Mario Santoyo. “The Water Commission staff has again failed to recognize the value of large storage projects by keeping Temperance Flat and Sites Reservoirs well below the 1.0 scoring level.” He noted only two of the remaining 11 projects had scores higher than 1.0. Both are small surface storage proposals. “We are, to say the least, disappointed and dumbfounded by this action.”

“This scoring is devastating but the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority is not giving up,” said Steve Worthley, SJVWIA president and chairman of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. “We’re going to take our case directly to the Water Commission staff next Wednesday (April 25) and then to the water commissioners themselves May 1-3.

The commissioners were assigned by Proposition 1 to make the decision on this. It’s important to remember that two-thirds of those casting ballots on Proposition 1 in the 2014 general election favored these bonds and what really attracted that level of support was the bond’s much-needed funding for major new storage projects such as ours.”

In fact, Worthley said, Proposition 1’s major storage provisions were written by the Legislature with big projects such as Temperance Flat and Sites specifically in mind.

In a lengthy letter today to the SJVWIA, the Water Commission staff indicated it accepted many of the arguments raised on appeal by the Temperance Flat project’s planners but increases in benefit scoring that were awarded on each item were merely minimal.

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

The SJVWIA was organized as a multi-jurisdictional joint powers authority in order to meet the need for coordinated Valley-wide leadership and collaboration in developing the Temperance Flat Project. The SJVWIA was formed by boards of supervisors in Tulare, Fresno, Kings, Madera and Merced Counties and also includes representatives from Valley cities and water agencies.

Worthley said the joint-powers agency’s “focus on our region’s water infrastructure needs is based upon a desire to help resolve the continuing San Joaquin Valley’s water supply crisis, and to capture floodwater flows that can be utilized regionally to help comply with the state’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. For too many years, the Valley has been enduring water shortages that adversely affect many of our counties’ constituents and the region’s economy. Temperance Flat represents a common sense approach and the Valley’s best opportunity to address these issues.”

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

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.

 

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.”