John Cox Joins Farmers and Agricultural Community in Calling to #StoptheWaterGrab
News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh
Gubernatorial candidate John Cox issued the following statements on the California State Water Resources Control Board’s recently proposed water plan that would divert between 350,000 and 1.7 million acre-feet of water away from Central Valley farmers annually.
“I am deeply disappointed yet sadly not surprised by the decision by the State Water Resources Control Board addressing flows on the San Joaquin river,” Cox said. “The complete failure of the Sacramento establishment to provide the necessary funding, authorization, and will to build adequate surface water storage is the single greatest reason California continues to suffer unnecessary water shortages. Even the most recent approval of funds by the California Water Commission for both the Sites and Temperance Flat reservoirs are but a fraction of the funds needed to complete these two vital water storage projects.”
“The time for action is long overdue and they need to stop the water grab,” Cox said. “As Governor, I and my appointments to all California boards and commissions—but in particular the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Water Commission—will take the steps necessary to develop sufficient water storage for California’s residential, agricultural, and business needs, while protecting our aquatic environment, the Delta, and our oceans.”
“Gavin Newsom is the very embodiment of the ‘Sacramento political class’ that ignores the plight of everyday Californians,” Cox said. “He will continue to spend countless billions of hard-earned tax dollars on proven failures like the so-called High-Speed Rail project rather than demand construction of essential water storage infrastructure to meet California’s needs—including environmental purposes, which today already use more water than all California agriculture.”
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.)
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.
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.
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.”
David Gutierrez on Dams, Water Management and Economics
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor
David Gutierrez, chief of Division of Safety of Dams and program manager for the Groundwater Sustainability Program within the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), talked with Patrick Cavanaugh, California Ag Today’s farm news director, regarding dams and the DWR in Sacramento.
California Ag Today: Please explain the differences between the DWR and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).
Gutierrez: This is actually really important to understand. DWR and SWRCB have completely different functions, just generally. We have different functions with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) passed last year. The responsibilities of DWR lie with developing the regulations—the rules—and assisting the locals to be successful. SWRCB is the backstop; they are the ones who are actually going to manage a basin that is not being managed successfully. They are completely different; SWRCB is a Board and DWR is not a board; it’s a department.
California Ag Today: Do you think SWRCB should have been thinking about the things we are doing today 20 years ago?
Gutierrez: On the record, the citizens of California, everybody, should have been thinking about this more than 20 years ago. You can’t really blame one group; all of us should have been thinking about this 20 years ago. We usually don’t solve problems until we get into a crisis, and that is where we are.
California Ag Today: Wasn’t it 40 years ago when the dams were denied or no longer supported by the population?
Gutierrez: So the Central Valley Project and SWRCB were both supported in the 20’s and 30’s, all the way up through the 70’s. After the 70’s, things did change and dams stopped getting built, but also most of the resources were already tapped at that point. So now you are seeing reservoirs being built off stream as most of the resources on stream have already been tapped into. So, there is a little more to it than people being for or against dams.
California Ag Today: Do you think the Temperance Flat and Sites Reservoirs will ever be built?
Gutierrez: It is an economic question, so I bet if you did an economic analysis, during certain times it would be economically feasible, and at other times it would not be. You have got to tie in the value of the water; if water becomes valuable, it is worth doing the project. If water is not valuable, you can’t afford the project.
“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.
“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.”