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.”
Hope on the Horizon, but Questions Still Unanswered for California Water Systems
By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor
Funding awarded for the new Temperance Flat Dam may have fallen short, but hopes for construction are still very much alive. Jason Phillips, Director of Friant Water Authority and alumni of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, has insight as to why those involved with the project are still optimistic.
According to Phillips, the Temperance Flat project is being moved to a joint power authority (JPA), an action that was previously expected.
“Part of the process is to take the application that the water infrastructure authority submitted and move it to the implementing agency. So this is a really positive step moving forward for implementing the project,” Phillips explained.
He further added, “This is not the result of any kind of conflict. This is exactly what has been envisioned.”
Although progress is being made towards the Temperance Flat JPA, the question as to how existing water structures will be repaired still stands. After Californians failed to pass Prop 3, there has been much anticipation around issues like water supply and infrastructure restoration.
“We’re going to be working with this administration on whether another water bond might make sense or whether there are other mechanisms to help finance the infrastructure to keep farming viable in the valley,” Phillips said.
EPA’s Acting Secretary Andrew Wheeler Visits The Valley With Congressman Denham
News Release Edited by Patrick Cavanaugh
Following his recent visit to the Valley, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) in Sacramento, expressing concern over several aspects of the proposed Bay-Delta plan. A copy of the letter is availablehere.
In the letter, Wheeler questions the effectiveness of drastically increasing flows to improve native fish species when studies show several additional factors contribute to their dwindling populations—including predation from non-native species, which the Bay-Delta plan does not address.
“I’m pulling every available resource to stop the state’s dangerous water grab,”said U.S. Representative Jeff Denham(R-Turlock). “Both the Department of Interior and EPA have now directly weighed in against Sacramento’s plan to steal our water.”
Oakdale Irrigation District General Manager Steve Knell said: “Finally, EPA Administrator Wheeler’s letter has put common sense back on the table in addressing the State’s draconian Water Plan. Thank you Congressman Denham for your efforts in bringing Mr. Wheeler to our area to hear our concerns.”
“This State Water Plan will devastate water storage in our dams, drive river temperatures to lethal levels and destroy the very fish species we at the local level are trying to protect. Our rivers deserve better. We have the science to show this, we have provided it to the State, and they have ignored it. We continued to advocate that sending more water down the river and not addressing other stressors is not an answer, and the State has ignored that too.”
South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Peter Rietkerk said: “On behalf of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, I would like to thank you and your staff for bringing Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to our region on October 11, 2018. The meeting was a success, and our message was clearly heard, evidenced by today’s letter from the EPA to the State Water Board. We’ve continued to lament the devastating impacts of State’s plan to local drinking and irrigation water supplies, and to protected fish species within our rivers, and it is great to know that the EPA has listened and will be looking for balance and accountability from the State Water Board if they choose to approve this outrageous plan.”
At Denham’s request, several key administration officials have visited the Central Valley and have been actively engaged in policies to fight Sacramento’s water grab and increase water storage for our farmers and residents. This is the latest result of many such actions.
On July 27,Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burmansubmitted a strongly worded comment expressing serious legal concerns with the latest Bay-Delta amendment. The comment followed a visit by U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke to our impacted reservoirs at request of Denham on July 20. Additionally, Zinke sent an internal memo to DOI agencies on August 17 requesting all Central Valley Project authorities be provided to him for disposal to combat the state’s plan.
FollowingDenham’s September 28 letter requesting executive action, the President signed a memorandum to bring more storage to the Valley and address hydroelectric relicensing at Don Pedro, requiring agencies to consider local plans like the Tuolumne River Management Plan developed by Modesto and Turlock Irrigation Districts. Denham previously released an animated video on NMFS Sacramento’s dangerous water grab.
As a follow-up to the presidential memorandum, Denham recently hosted a call with senior administration officials from the Bureau of Reclamation to discuss the details of the memorandum, next steps in the process, and allow irrigation districts and farm bureaus an opportunity to ask questions.
The president’s order supplements legislation authored by Denham to support innovative financing opportunities for water projects throughout the western United States. Denham’s New WATER Act (H.R. 434) passed and was signed into law as part of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (WRDA). Eligible projects include new reservoirs, below ground storage projects, recycling and desalination projects. This legislation supports large projects like enlargement of Shasta Dam, construction of Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Dam, and expanding Los Vaqueros Reservoir.
The California Water Commission has granted state water bond funding of $171 million to the central San Joaquin Valley’s proposed Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir project. The action came during a Water Commission hearing recently in Sacramento.
The $171 million award under the state’s Water Storage Investment Program is well short of the $1 billion in funding that had been sought when the application process was launched by the project’s lead agency, the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA), but is still very welcomed.
“It is far less than what we originally asked for,” said Mario Santoyo, SJVWIA Executive Director, “but these state funds remain an important part of Temperance Flat’s financing that we have long looked toward along with federal and local investor funding. We have continued to move steadily forward working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Interior Department and the investor’s group that has taken shape.”
Project proponents were disappointed by a May 4 Water Commission action that turned down Temperance Flat public benefits scoring the project needed to achieve all the state project funding the SJVWIA had sought. They were also surprised by another Water Commission decision to not make available early funding to the SJVWIA for predevelopment environmental and permitting work.
Santoyo said reconsideration of that action may be sought.
“We’re still moving forward and are not giving up,” said Steve Worthley, SJVWIA president and Tulare County Board of Supervisors chairman. “We’re pushing ahead because this project would be a major valley tool in complying with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act along with improving water supply availability and reliability and flood control. Temperance Flat would improve water supplies for disadvantaged communities and urban areas, and create tremendous water management flexibility, not to mention significant benefits for the environment.”
A number of interested water agencies from many parts of the valley are exploring project financing options. The Bureau of Reclamation is pursuing completion of an updated Temperance Flat feasibility study.
Temperance Flat would be located on the San Joaquin Valley above Millerton Lake, northeast of Fresno. The new reservoir would contain 1.3 million acre-feet of water storage space, 2½ times the capacity of Millerton Lake behind Friant Dam.
Temperance Flat is viewed as a vitally-needed means of capturing and storing high flows of water generated in big water supply years. Much of that water is currently being lost to flood releases from Friant Dam due to Millerton Lake’s small storage capacity.
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.
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.
(Letter was signed by nine Valley state senators and assembly persons.)
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,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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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Urgent Need to Call CA Legislators and Suggest Opposition to AB 2975 (Friedman)
Below is a letter sent by the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority to Valley Legislators, requesting their help in stopping AB 2975. As you may be aware, this legislation is a slightly different version from last years AB 975 by the same author.
Please do not believe the author’s staff if they state that this legislation is not targeting the Temperance Flat Reservoir project; it is. Not only would the TFR project be in jeopardy, but other future projects in other tributaries would be as well. Again, they may suggest “approve with amendments.” Just say “NO.” If this door is opened even a fraction, we will not be able to close it when they decide to enhance it.
Simply put, it is a means by which the State of California could override Federal actions.
Our understanding is that the bill is heading to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, so please communicate with committee members with concerns.
Dear San Joaquin Valley Members of the Senate and Assembly:
On behalf of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority (SJVWIA), I am writing to express our opposition to AB 2975 (Friedman). As you may know, this bill is very similar to legislation, AB 975, proposed in 2017 by Assembly Member Friedman, legislation which the SJVWIA also opposed.
This latest bill again seeks to expand the scope of the state’s Wild and Scenic Rivers Act with potential adverse impacts on the state’s water supply system, water supply development, water rights and drought response.
It is obvious that a particular (although unnamed) target of the legislation is the proposed Temperance Flat Project on the San Joaquin River, northeast of Fresno. Under the previous federal administration, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposed to include much of the San Joaquin River within the footprint of Temperance Flat Reservoir under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act. That proposal has been withdrawn by the Trump Administration.
Temperance Flat is a project that enjoys wide public support within the San Joaquin Valley in recognition of benefits it would provide in implementing the state’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and addressing water supply needs that are so evident because of California’s continuing water crisis. As you well know, our region is Ground Zero for the worse of the state’s water crisis impacts and negative effects.
The SJVWIA was organized by five San Joaquin Valley counties, plus cities and special districts, with the objective of applying for state bond financing under the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) directed toward Temperance Flat development and constructively address these problems.
We know you understand Temperance Flat would provide a vitally-needed source of additional surface water storage. A large dam would be constructed within the upper reaches of existing Millerton Lake to form the new reservoir, which would have a capacity of 1.3 million acre-feet. More than 20 years of federal investment and study, directed and carried out at a cost of more than $36 million to date by the Interior Department and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, have gone into the Temperance Flat project since 1995. This analysis has scrutinized project needs, benefits, operational challenges and related issues. The project would provide much needed additional water for San Joaquin River restoration.
Unfortunately, the SJVWIA has found it necessary to act and devote limited resources to opposing not only an obstructionist federal wild and scenic rivers proposal, but these state bills proposed by Assembly Member Friedman. This bill’s language could be a complete, permanent and fatal obstruction to developing Temperance Flat’s vastly increased and vitally-needed water storage capability, which is so essential for complying with SGMA, solving the valley’s water crisis and meeting regional environmental needs.
Ironically, the San Joaquin River reach within the Temperance Flat footprint can never attain “wild” or “free flowing” conditions. Upstream are seven major dams and nine smaller dams, developed over the past century by Southern California Edison Company and Pacific Gas and Electric Company to store and divert water into a dozen power plants where electricity is generated. Under most conditions, what some are proposing as a “wild” and “free-flowing” river carries just a tiny flow for fish because most of the river’s discharge is routed through two PG&E power plants.
The Friedman bill’s provisions are nothing less than a poorly-disguised ploy to hamper and discourage further surface water development. We see no reason why current state law should be broadened to expand designated “wild and scenic” areas as this measure purports to intend doing.
For these reasons, the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority opposes AB 2975 and respectfully requests your “NO” vote when the bill is taken up. If you or members of your staff have any questions, please contact Executive Director Mario Santoyo at (559) 779-7595, or by electronic mail at Msantoyo@sjvwia.org.