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.”