To Deal with SGMA, Temperance Flat Dam Must Be Built
By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, also known as SGMA, is seen as dire for the future of farming as we know it in the San Joaquin Valley. One thing that could help reduce the threat of SGMA is more storage for surface water deliveries—increased storage such as the proposed Temperance Flat Dam.
Mario Santoyo is the executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority. For decades, Mario Santoyo has been pushing for the construction of Temperance Flat Dam.
“With this new groundwater sustainability law coming into play, it is going to basically shut down a lot of farming,” he said.
If farmers cannot prove that they are putting in as much water as they are taking out of the ground, they will lose their access to the groundwater pumps.
“Farming in the Central Valley is in for a world of hurt. The only thing that can help us won’t solve everything but can help us,” Santoyo said.
It is a major step in the right direction to be able to manage high runoff water that we are otherwise losing to the ocean—meaning millions and millions of acre-feet lost into the ocean.
“Building Temperance Flat, which would provide us additional storage opportunities up to additional 1.2 million acre-feet, will allow us to have carry over water from year to year,” Santoyo said. “This would come in handy when we hit dry years here in California. It would allow us to move water from above ground to below ground, stabilizing our groundwater condition.”
Steve Worthley is a Tulare County Supervisor and president of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, the applicant of the Temperance Flat Dam project.
“We are five counties, but when you include the water districts and the cities that are a part of our JPA, we truly cover the entire San Joaquin, and it’s four million people,” Worthley said. “The four million people of the San Joaquin Valley needs to be heard not only in Sacramento but throughout the state. We are important and what we produce in this valley is important not only to our valley, to the state, but to the world. We cannot afford to stop this process. We must go forward. We look forward to working with our federal partners, our private investors, but this project will proceed.”
Buddy Mendes is a Fresno County Supervisor and a farmer of various crops in Fresno County. He is also a member of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, who said, “I have witnessed a mugging by the commission. They mugged the people of the valley in a criminal act. They’ve virtually given away their responsibility to the Fish and Wildlife Service, who had a license to steal from the four million people in the valley. They took from them. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. ”
The former mayor of Fresno, Alan Autry, who worked early on regarding the Temperance Flat Dam Project, said,“I want to see emails, and I want to see meeting schedules between those commissioners. We have a right to see those. Who came into those offices? What was discussed right before that vote? We will show you ours. If there’s legal recourse to do that, I would urge it to be done. Because the light of day is their worst enemy.
And the big area where the water commission staff says where Temperance Flat project fell short was on the ecosystem restoration, and it came down to a model, and the model that the applicants followed was the same model used by the Bureau of Reclamation and state, explained Mario Santoyo the executive director of the Water Infrastructure Authority. “And we asked them, ‘If you do not like the model we were using, then give us a model to use.’ And they did not have an answer.”
Santoyo said that he did not think that the Water Commission’s staff even used a model to make a determination.
“I do not think so. From my perspective, they were already fixed. They knew the answers and whatever we produced wasn’t going to be the answers that they wanted,” Santoyo said.
And it was determined that California Fish and Wildlife was doing all the science based on the numbers that the Temperance Flat applicants gave to the California Water commissioners.
“Fish and Wildlife were only supposed to be consulted. That’s what the legislation says, “ Santoyo said. “They were given the complete authority to make the decision. That’s where the problem is, is that they were only supposed to be consulted but not given ultimate power.”
And the California Fish and Wildlife has never been a friend to agriculture, Santoyo said. “Given all the actions that have occurred regarding all the shortages of water that now are hitting us, whether it’s in the Delta where there are the tributaries. Yeah, it would be difficult to say they’ve been our friends.”
California Assemblymember, Jim Patterson said in the words of Winston Churchill to a graduating class. “‘It was probably one of the shortest commencement addresses in history,’ I think is our rally and cry. Never, never, never, never, ever give up. We’re not giving up because our future is dependent upon this and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do the very best we can to save, store, move and use water, in one of the most effective and efficient way possible.”
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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.
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.”
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 allowsthe 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.”
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.
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.”
“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.