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.
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.
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.
“In our partnership with the cities of Modesto and Turlock and what I’ll call ancillary partners in Stanislaus County and the City of Ceres, we have leaned heavily on our partners for advanced funding,” Hansen said. Turlock and Modesto will be providing the Del Puerto Water District with treated, recycled water transported by direct pipeline to the Delta-Mendota canal for temporary storage. From there, the water will be distributed to agricultural customers within the Del Puerto service area.
Acknowledging the shared financial burden of getting the project off the ground, Hansen shared, “We have very solid agreements in place and the cities have assisted the district by fronting a great portion of the effort thus far—on the condition that once the project comes to fruition, they will recoup all of their input costs, plus a guaranteed revenue stream on the water supply over the life of the partnership. So it’s worked very well,” she said.
Hansen also noted her appreciation for the collaboration among the people in her area and for their understanding that comprise is a much more effective way to achieve water goals, particularly given that many sectors of the community are competing for limited water supplies. “Del Puerto ratepayers have certified they are willing to pay the entire cost of the project,” Hansen said, “including all costs incurred thus far. So, agriculture will fund the delivery system and the water supply,” adding again that upfront funding by cities at the beginning of the project aided the situation.
Forging strong community partnerships to achieve a more stability water supply is key, according to Hansen, “because we haven’t been in a position to put up the risk capital and the money in advance of water deliveries, so it’s been a truly remarkable public-private partnership that we’ve developed,” she said.