Letter to California Water Commission on Failure to Approve Temperance Dam

CWC Decision is a Black Eye to State

Editor’s note: Valley legislators sent the attached letter to the CWC last week, reflecting both disappointment and concern over the CWC WSIP process as it relates to the Temperance Flat Reservoir Project. The letter asks for a reconsideration for the TFR ecosystem evaluation.

Clearly, we appreciate all our Valley legislators who have fought so hard for this project for many years. This letter at a minimum puts on the record their thoughts on how the CWC handled the TFR project.

May 17, 2018

California Water Commission: Mr. Armando Quintero, Chair, & Mr. Joe Yun, Executive Officer

P.O. Box 942836, Sacramento, California 94236-000

Dear Mr. Quintero, Mr. Yun and Commission  Members:

On May 3, 2018, The California Water Commission took action, perhaps the most definitive and historic action with regard to the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) state bond funding applications.

As members of the California Legislature, we have watched and participated in this entire application process. All Californians would benefit from water storage projects this money is intended to fund. However, this investment has been stymied by the commission staff’s narrow determination. The people we represent have expected a great deal of positive leadership from the Water Commission and we echo the public’s disappointment in how the review process has unfolded.

During the initial review of WSIP project applications, many of us joined in calling into question the policy and procedures of the application review process. From the beginning, we had concerns that the process developed by commission staff and the information provided would not adequately account the benefits of water storage projects throughout the state. Despite our concerns, little was done to address the problem resulting in six of the project scores receiving “O” benefits.

Temperance Dam
Mario Santoyo is Executive Director of the SJV Water Infrastructure Authority, which presented the Temperance Flat Dam Proposal to the California Water Commission​.

In 2008, the EDT model was selected by the state and federal agencies responsible for implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program (SJRRP)—namely the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). In the Quantitative Fisheries Model Selection Recommendation Process, 2008, the SJRRP agencies state that EDT was rated ” … as the most appropriate quantitative fish population model for the SJRRP.” This report also states that “the EDT model is a framework that views salmon as the indicator or diagnostic species for the ecosystem. The salmon’s perspective (i.e., its perception of the environment) becomes a filtered view of the system as a whole.

The EDT framework was designed so that analysis made at different scales (i.e., from tributary watersheds to successively larger watersheds) might be related and linked. Biological performance is a central feature of the framework and is defined in terms of three elements: life history diversity, productivity, and capacity. These elements of performance are characteristics of the ecosystem that describe persistence, abundance, and distribution potential of a population. This analytical model is the tool used to analyze environmental information and draw conclusions about the ecosystem. The model incorporates an environmental attributes database and a set of mathematical algorithms that compute productivity and capacity parameters for the diagnostic species. …”

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation selected the EDT model for application to the Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation—the federal feasibility study of Temperance Flat Reservoir—to quantify benefits. Prior to its application, Reclamation commissioned a scientific peer review of the EDT model to confirm the suitability of its use for quantifying benefits. It is our understanding that when the SJVWIA team asked if there were any models that could be used in place of the EDT, the CWC staff declined to respond. This is of clear concern and demonstrates the inconsistencies within the information provided by commission staff.

From the San Joaquin Valley’s perspective, the outcome of this process is a black eye for the state. The two-thirds threshold for Proposition 1 in 2014 would not have been met without the support of the San Joaquin Valley. Despite the bias by some opponents against large-scale storage projects, the language in AB 1471intentionally included Chapter 8 (Provision (a), section 797.1, page 22) to clarify that the Legislature’s intent for the $2.7 billion allocation was for  surface water storage projects with an emphasis on Sites and Temperance Flat Reservoir based on the CALFED Bay-Delta Program Record of Decision, dated August 28, 2000 (Section 2. Decision, 2.2 Plan for Action, 2.2.5 Storage, pages 42 through 45). We the members of the Legislature believed that by voting for Prop 1 funding that all projects including controversial storage projects in the CALFED Bay Delta Program would be given a fair and accurate evaluation in order to meet the overall water management strategy for the state.

In closing, we insist that the Water Commission reconsider its acceptance of the staff recommendation on the Temperance Flat Project’s ecosystem scoring or at the minimum direct the staff to go back and re-evaluate the application’s ecosystem public benefit utilizing the Ecosystem Diagnosis and Treatment (EDT) model cited in the Water Commission’s Technical Reference Document as being acceptable for use in the analysis required by the application.

Sincerely,

(Letter was signed by nine Valley state senators and assembly persons.)

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Even Growers Not Benefitting are Unhappy

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Even growers who were not going to benefit from the proposed Temperance Flat Dam are upset by the denial of funding for the project by the California Water Commission.

Doug Verboon is a walnut grower as well as County Supervisor in Kings County. He said Kings County was not going to get anything from Temperance Flat, but still he was all for it.

“We’re actually in the middle. We weren’t going to get any water from the project, but we want our neighbors to be happy as well, so it hurts to see them hurt and we’re getting tired of the do as I say and not do as I do, attitude from … Sacramento,” Verboon said.

“We need someone to stick up for our rights. We feel that the opinions that the Water Commission pushed upon us were somebody else’s opinion. The Water Commission did not take time to listen to our projects plans, or listen to our comments. They already had their mind made up before the 2014 Water bond went to the voters,” Verboon said.

Ryan Jacobsen, Executive Director, Fresno County Farm Bureau

Ryan Jacobsen,the executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau representing farmers who would have definitely benefited from Temperance Flat Dam if it was approved by the California Water Commission, also had a lot to say on the topic.

“First and foremost, there is obvious frustration. I mean, I think that’s the expression of what everybody had here to say. We are all left bewildered as to why, how a decision like this with as much work that’s gone into it. We had science that backed it up and all of the sudden the commission came back and said that it wasn’t even close enough to be good and that they could not help us get there.”

Jacobsen noted that the commission could not explain why the project was not good. “They just said it was not good. It really smells of politics, and sounds as though things were done inappropriately and at this point, it’s just a frustration and it’s time to reorganize and figure out how the fight continues to build that very important project to this Valley,” he said.

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The Will of The People Was Ignored

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Agricultural leaders from cities, along with state and federal officials representing the Central San Joaquin Valley, are reeling with anger and disappointment with the California Water Commission’s failure to fund the Temperance Flat Dam storage project.

California Water Commission members facing the room, with staff at table in front of them. The staff made all decisions based on NRDC and CA Fish and Wildlife recommendations, killing Temperance Flat funding.

“The California Water Commission have ignored the facts and their own guidelines and have ignored the will of the people,” said Lee Brand, mayor of Fresno. “We believe the voters, especially those in the Central Valley, overwhelmingly passed Proposition 1 where there was an expectation that their hard-earned money would be spent to help build water storage.”

“We desperately needed the Temperance Flat project. It will help us secure our water supplies against the droughts we know surely come,” Brand said.

The push to get funding for Temperance Flat dam was truly a valley-wide effort, with supervisors from Fresno, Kings, Madera and Merced counties, along with many cities and water agencies.

“Voters not just in the Valley but across the entire state should be upset over this decision. It is unthinkable that the Water Commission did not understand the benefits of the temperance flat project,” Brand said.

“Clearly all of us … are disappointed and clearly many of the voters in this valley are angered because we have been overlooked in terms of the water needs that are so essential for our valley,” said Jim Costa, D-CA 16th District, which includes Fresno.

“The Valley needs a reliable supply of water, and we supported this initiative on the basis that we would gain a more reliable supply of water. And clearly the recommendations of the Water Commission who took their staff’s lead was a very, very big disappointment for me. And I think all of us,” Costa continued.

“We’re not given up. That’s the bottom line. We’re not giving up,” he said.

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Jason Phillips Talks Water Issues

Jason Phillips on Groundwater Recharge, Water Bond, and Subsidence

Editor’s Note: Jason Phillips is the CEO of the Friant Water Authority, as well as a member of the Board of Directors with the San Joaquin Water Infrastructure Authority (SJWIA), which is behind the building of Temperance Flat Dam. Editor Patrick Cavanaugh sat down with Jason Phillips, and this interview reflects the topics discussed.

Cavanaugh: The California Water Commission rejected all of the storage proposals for Prop 1 money due to all applicants not showing enough in the public benefit ratio. They have all appealed to the Commission, and their decision will be at the end of July. It’s extraordinary that the California Water Commission does not see groundwater recharge as a public benefit.

Phillips: The law was written in such a way that groundwater recharge, which is what we desperately need, is not considered a public benefit. But I must say that the SJWIA team putting together the application did a great job of using water out of Temperance for multiple benefits, including salmon and keeping water in the valley for groundwater recharge, and I hope the Water Commission can see that.

Cavanaugh: The Commission requires a 1:1 ratio, meaning for every $1 spent on the project, it must benefit the public by $1. Temperance Flat Dam was shown that for each $1 spent, it would give back $3.

Phillips: That’s right, and that’s what is necessary. Anybody who looks into what salmon requires surviving—well, it’s cold water. So the ability to generate more cold water in the upper San Joaquin River is nearly impossible. So if you can get a new reservoir over 600 feet high and have a cold water pool, that would provide a benefit. And that’s what the consultant looked at. The commission in their initial analysis assigned zero benefits to salmon, so that’s why we got such a low score.

But if you look at alternatives to trying to provide that salmon benefit in the river, there aren’t a lot of other options, which is why it’s such a significant benefit for Temperance. And again, it’s not sending the water out of the valley by sending it to the San Joaquin River and recirculating it back to growers and cities … so that we can get the groundwater recharge.

Cavanaugh: Of course, Temperance Flat Dam will triple the current storage of Millerton Lake, and a significant benefit will be groundwater storage?

Phillips: It would almost exclusively help groundwater storage because the surface supplies that are generated in Temperance would be used to supplement what’s being pumped, so people can put that water in groundwater recharge basins or they’re able to use the water and not have their groundwater pumps running. That is the absolute best form of recharging, is somewhat able to shut their groundwater pump off, have a delivery of surface water instead of that, and let the natural recharge take place.

Cavanaugh: Let’s talk about the new $8.9 billion water bond that will be on the November 2018 ballot and written by Jerry Merel, a former deputy director of the California Department of Water Resources and a longtime water-project advocate.

Phillips: About 18 months, Jerry had a conversation with me about what would the San Joaquin Valley need in a water bond to help get it out of the problem that … it’s in with groundwater overdraft? And recognizing that Prop 1 was the state’s path for Temperance Flat and that there’s a different path for the tunnels, north of the Delta. So those two are not part of this November 2018 bond.

And I told Dr. Merel at the time that we needed to fix our canal system. We have to be able to move water when it’s available to the growers, into the cities, and never miss a drop of available surface water. And to do that, we have to fix the Friant–Kern canal and the Madera canal. We have to expand the conveyance between the existing canals. And he thought that was a great idea. It’s something that should have broad statewide support. It has support from conservation groups up and down the valley.

Cavanaugh: Is this specifically for canal infrastructure repair?

Phillips: It is specifically for infrastructure for conveyance projects that would help recharge the groundwater aquifer.

Cavanaugh: The $9 Billion has a lot of water for all regions of state?

Phillips: it’s broader than just infrastructure. It targets the different regions of the state for what they need most. Recycling and desalination are huge for the southern California coastal community. So it targets cost sharing money there. If you go to northern California, there are things that Sacramento rice growers really need to support their water needs. In the central valley, it’s more water infrastructure for conveyance that can complement new storage and water conveyance in the Delta. It also includes a lot of money to help the groundwater sustainability agencies fund their plans that are required under the groundwater law.

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

Cavanaugh: Prop 1 was $2.7 billion, and this one is nearly $9 billion.

Phillips: That is… it is real money. And I think what California will realize is that there’s a real need for that. And when you look at the size of California, and it’s projected that the bond money will be used as far south as San Diego and the Salton Sea and as far north for repairs at Oroville.

When you look at the scope of the state of California … you see that the need is much bigger than that, when it comes to the state’s water infrastructure.

And regarding the $2.7 for storage—on top of that, the projects will require substantial private investment. And we are all looking at that, and I think there’s a lot of interest. There’s still a need for more storage to the extent that even the water agencies themselves and the growers that are part of those agencies are willing to fund. And we’re still looking at whether the state or federal governments will help cost share it.

Cavanaugh: if the California Water Commission never funds Temperance Flat, is it possible to get it privately funded?

Phillips: Friant Water Authority and other water agencies in the valley are actively and aggressively looking at that right now, doing our feasibility studies to look at whether privately financing the reservoir would make sense. I think it probably will, but it’s a very complicated analysis that we have to do. So by the end of the summer, we’ll hear from the Water Commission, and we should know more about the feasibility of private financing will be available.

Cavanaugh: Regarding the Jerry Merel water bond, where can people go to get more information?

Phillips: People can go to waterbond.org. You can see whether you want to look at it in one page or whether you want to look at the actual text of the bond. It’s straightforward on that website.

Cavanaugh: From where would the investment for the new water bond come?

Phillips: It will all be state dollars and depending on the different categories of where the funding goes. Some of it is for cost-shared work, in the San Joaquin Valley on infrastructure, where it would 100 percent bond funded. No reimbursement required and the money would come straight to the Friant Water Authority for immediate use. We’ve already worked with Department of Water Resources to make sure that, that when the bond passes, we could start submitting requests for some of that funding immediately to begin working on the canal, as early as November 2018.

Cavanaugh: How bad is the subsidence along the Friant Kern Canal?

Phillips: It’s a big problem, and it’s growing. The worst part of it is near the middle of the 152-mile canal, where it has subsided three feet and continues to subside. That subsidence is since 2015. The capacity of the canal has been reduced by about 60%, due to subsidence.

To pass the same amount of flow through that section, the elevation of the water in the canal is very near the top of the canal. And five bridges are impacted by that section where the water comes right up to the bridge, and we’re only at 40 percent of the design capacity there.

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Letter in Support of Temperance Flat Dam

California Building Industry Association Supports Temperance Flat Dam Project

Many letters are flowing to the California Water Commission in support of Temperance Flat. Here is just one of them!

 

 

Mr. Armando Quintero

Chairman

California Water Commission

P.O. Box 942836 Sacramento, CA 94236-0001

 

Re: Support for Temperance Flat Reservoir

Dear Chairman Quintero:

The California Building Industry Association (CBIA) is a statewide trade association that proudly represents 3,000 members, ranging from homebuilders and trade contractors to suppliers and industry professionals. CBIA member-companies are responsible for over 90% of the privately financed and privately constructed new homes built in California each year. As such, we take great interest in the Water Commission’s Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) and its process for allocating Proposition 1 funds for projects to improve the statewide water system. CBIA has historically been a strong supporter of efforts to increase water supply – our organization was a key stakeholder in the water bond negotiations in 2009 through the successful Proposition 1 bond on the ballot.

Given our longstanding interest in California’s water system, we wish to express our support for the Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir Project given its ability to provide essential water storage for the state of California. As one of the projects identified in the 2000 CALFED Record of Decision, the project would provide up to 1.26 million acre-feet of vital water storage, thereby improving water supply and the flexibility needed to manage California’s precious water resources.

An increase in water supply is particularly important given the state’s current and projected housing crisis. Housing supply is not keeping up with demand nor has it in several decades. The current backlog of housing is estimated at two million homes needed. Additionally, to keep pace with growth, the state needs at least 180,000 new units per year through 2025. With low supply and skyrocketing costs, it is not surprising that California’s overall homeownership rate is at its lowest level since the 1940’s. The State ranks 49 out of the 50 states in homeownership rates as well as in the supply of housing units per capita.

One critical component for addressing California’s housing needs is there must be an adequate and reliable source of water. While today’s homebuilders employ the newest and most effective water efficiency technology, new housing projects cannot be approved and built without identifying water supply. Temperance Flat would help provide that reliability so that our members can move forward on much needed housing projects throughout the state.

We strongly support this project, as it would help ensure that California has the ability to sustain its growing water needs by enhancing deplenished water resources and providing the necessary flexibility in the system to manage those resources. We look forward to working with the California Water Commission and the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority to advance this important project.

Sincerely,

Erin Guerrero

Vice President of Legislative Affairs

 

Many other letters are coming in for support. Here is who to contact, by e-mail or U.S. mail, with your comments attention to:

California Water Commissioners and Executive Director

California Water Commission

P.O. Box 942836

Sacramento, California 94236-0001

CWC@water.ca.gov

Mr. Joe Yun, Executive Director

California Water Commission

P.O. Box 942836

Sacramento, California 94236-0001

joseph.yun@water.ca.gov

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