Congressman McCarthy: Water Projects Needed Instead of High Speed Rail

McCarthy Introduces Legislation to Repurpose High-Speed Rail Funding to Water Infrastructure Projects

News Release

Congressman Kevin McCarthy introduced legislation recently that would repurpose recovered federal funding from the California High-Speed Rail project to critical water infrastructure projects in California and the West. McCarthy released the following statement on this legislation, H.R. 1600, the Repurposing Assets to Increase Long-term Water Availability and Yield (RAILWAY) Act:                                                                                   

“The California High-Speed Rail project is a boondoggle that California and American taxpayers must move on from. Since its inception, the project’s costs have ballooned while oversight and accountability within the California High-Speed Rail Authority has been nonexistent. Last month, Governor Newsom in his State of the State rightfully recognized these shortcomings and announced an end to the project as it was put to the voters.”

Congressman Kevin McCarthy

“The RAILWAY Act would end the Federal government’s involvement in this failed endeavor by repurposing up to $3.5 billion in recovered Federal funding for the California High-Speed Speed Rail project to water storage infrastructure projects as outlined in the bipartisan WIIN Act. Under the WIIN Act, five storage projects in California are advancing, and when completed, could provide 5 million acre-feet of additional water storage in our state. This is a far better use of taxpayer money that can address more important needs in our state.

 “California has experienced over five years of drought, and people across the state have felt the consequences, with entire communities on the brink of disaster due to lack of water. The RAILWAY Act would address this crisis head-on by providing significant funding for what California really needs: infrastructure projects that help our state capture and store water during wet years for use in dry ones. The RAILWAY Act builds on the success of the WIIN Act by continuing to increase California’s drought resiliency and helping ensure our communities, families, and farmers have access to life-sustaining water.” 

 Every Republican Member of the California Congressional Delegation joined McCarthy as cosponsors of the RAILWAY Act. Below are their quotes:

 “California farmers and families need a reliable water supply, not an extravagant high-speed rail line. This bill will redirect crucial funds and resources where they’re most needed—particularly in water infrastructure projects—to help ease the burden on Central Valley communities struggling through the water crisis.” –Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22)

“The RAILWAY Act repurposes funding from the most wasteful project in California’s history and invests it into some of our most critical water storage projects. That’s a win for taxpayers and a win for California’s future. We know California experiences periods of droughts followed by periods of significant rainfall. The RAILWAY Act provides a common sense solution to this problem by building storage projects to capture more water in wet years in order to sustain California families and our economy through the dry years. Building water storage is long overdue. It’s time to stop watching water be diverted into the ocean and start acting to capture and store that water.” –Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42)

“Years of drought in California brought entire cities within months of exhausting their water supplies. In extremely wet years, we have watched our dams spilling millions of acre feet of water to the ocean because of lack of storage. The infrastructure funding provided in the RAILWAY Act will begin to turn this tide in support of water abundance.” –Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04)

“California’s high-speed rail project has been a very expensive disaster, with costs ballooning so much that voters are no longer getting anywhere close to what they were sold. I agree that all federal funding given to California for this project should be promptly returned and invested in commonsense projects people need, be it water storage or transportation. I have a bill, the High-Speed Refund Act, with a similar goal of reinvesting these funds into useful transportation infrastructure, such as widening Highway 70, three lanes for I-5, improving Highway 99 or 395, or many other real world projects that are actually useful to people in Northern California. Almost any type of infrastructure will be more beneficial and, one way or another, taxpayers deserve a stop to additional waste for this misguided pipedream of high-speed rail.”Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01)

“The last major reservoir in California was built forty years ago. Since then, our population has grown significantly, and we’re ill-prepared to endure droughts. It’s time we take action to increase our water supply and modernize our water infrastructure. This bill makes good use of funds that were already going to be spent in California. I hope that Congress will pass this legislation quickly.” –Congressman Paul Cook (CA-08)

“Efficient water storage and management is California’s greatest need. The high-speed rail project is California’s greatest waste of time. The RAILWAY Act corrects this problem by implementing a common-sense plan to address a significant concern in our state by investing significant and critical resources to ensure we have water availability for the future. I am proud to be part of this effort and will continue working with my colleagues to lead on this important ongoing issue.”  –Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA-50)

Background

  • The Federal Railway Administration (FRA) made two grant awards to the California High-Speed Rail Authority for the High-Speed Rail (HSR) project totaling approximately $3.5 billion.
  • On February 12, the Governor of California, in his State of the State address summarized the reality that the HSR project costs too much, will take too long to build, and that “there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego.”
  • On February 19, the FRA notified the California High-Speed Rail Authority it is de-obligating $929 million in unspent FRA grant funding for the HSR project after determining that the Authority “has materially failed to comply with the terms of the funding agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the HSR Project.”  The FRA also indicated it is “exploring all available legal options” to recover approximately $2.5 billion in Federal funds already expended on the HSR project.
  • To view the FRA letter click here.

The RAILWAY Act would accomplish three important things:

  • Ends the California High Speed Rail (HSR) Project: The RAILWAY Act would reflect reality and end Federal participation in the HSR project—consistent with the FRA notification of February 19—in the Central Valley and repurpose funds to critical water infrastructure projects.
  • Increases Drought Resiliency in California and the West: The RAILWAY Act would provide significant funding to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act program that the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) uses to design and construct various large-scale water infrastructure projects in California and the West, including expanding existing and building new reservoirs, thereby increasing drought resiliency in western states.
  • Helps Keep Federal Funds in California: By providing significant funding to the WIIN Act program that the DOI is using to advance the Shasta Dam and Reservoir Enlargement Project, the Sites Reservoir Storage Project, the Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Project, the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Phase 2 Expansion Project, and the Friant-Kern Canal subsidence correction project, all which are located in California, the RAILWAY Act would help ensure repurposed Federal funds remain in California to create jobs and build needed infrastructure.

The RAILWAY Act would also repurpose a portion of HSR project funds to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to award grants to projects designed to help small, rural communities by:

  • Developing new sources of water when residential wells run dry; and
  • Reducing or eliminating elevated nitrate levels in drinking water.

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Groundwater and Need for Temperance Flat Dam

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.”

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Modesto Irrigation District Files Legal Action Against State Water Board

MID Lawsuit Challenges CA Water Board On Misguided Plan

News Release from Modesto Irrigation District

Modesto Irrigation District (MID) filed a lawsuit on Jan. 10 against the California State Water Resources Control Board in response to their vote to approve Phase 1 of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan.

MID’s lawsuit primarily challenges the State Water Board for failing to comply with both the United States and California Constitutions and the California Environmental Quality Act.

MID is among many parties—including our partners in the San Joaquin Tributaries Authority—who are pursuing independent legal action against the State Water Board.turlock irrigation canal

“The State Water Board misused its power to adopt a misguided and devastating plan,” said MID Board President Paul Campbell. “Given their current plan, we’re left with no choice but to pursue legal action. We must protect our more than 130-year old water rights, our water supplies, and the communities we serve.”

To balance the needs of our environment and customers, MID continues to advocate with our Tuolumne River partners for a durable solution composed of both flow and non-flow measures. Parallel to filing this lawsuit and consistent with the State Water Board’s direction, we’re working collaboratively to present a voluntary agreement for the State Water Board’s consideration in the coming months.

“Our voluntary agreement will ensure water security and reliability, includes environmental improvements, enhances fish populations far beyond what is projected in the state’s current plan and most importantly, guarantees timely implementation,” said MID Board Vice President John Mensinger. “Their plan threatens not only Central Valley ag and urban water users, but also the water supply of more than two million people living in the Bay Area.”

MID’s legal action reinforces our commitment to protect the environment, our customers, our region, and our water supply. For more information and to read MID’s full filing, visit www.mid.org.

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Water Board’s Water Grab From Rivers Will Impact Domestic Water

State Water Resources Control Board Plan is “Pseudo-Science”

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Over one thousand farmers and stakeholders gathered at the California state capital building in Sacramento in August to protest the California Water Resources Control Board’s recent proposed Water Grab.

Ronda Lucas, General Counsel with the Modesto Irrigation District, explained to California Ag Today that the water board’s plan would severely impact Modesto citizens.

Modesto Irrigation District provides surface drinking water to the city of Modesto.

“If you take away Modesto Irrigation District surface water, you take away the domestic water supply for the entire city of Modesto, and they did not consider any of that in there,” Lucas said.turlock irrigation canal

The California Water Resources Control Board seriously underestimated the impact that their water grab would have on surrounding communities.

“Their science is shaky at best; it’s pseudo-science frankly,” Lucas said.

Modesto Irrigation District has spent more than $25 million in studies for over a decade specifically on the Tuolumne River with their partner, Turlock Irrigation District.

“We have presented them with a plan that gives them more fish that is sustainable, that protects groundwater, that protects surface water, and that allows everybody to get better together. This is our river,” Lucas said.

Also, Don Pedro is one of the few reservoirs and facilities that has zero state funding. The residents of Turlock, Turlock Irrigation District, and the Modesto Irrigation District paid 100 percent with a little federal money with Army Corp to build that facility.

“Because of that foresight, the state is going to come and try and take it and it is not theirs to take and we cannot let it happen,” Lucas explained.

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40 Percent Water Grab Continues to Be Big Concern

Growers Will Fight Back

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Recently, over one thousand farmers and other stakeholders attended a rally in Sacramento outside the capital building, protesting the California State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed Water Grab, which consists of over 40 percent of the water from Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers to increase flows for salmon. California Ag Today spoke with Ronda Lucas, General Counsel with the Modesto Irrigation District.

Unfortunately, the state does not need to pick this fight, but they are choosing to.

“In ignoring our science in the process, one of the major deficiencies of the plan is the state board’s refusal,” Lucas said.

Rhonda Lucas

Lucas would like the water board to be intellectually honest about the linkage and the impact this will have on groundwater.

“They simply say that we’ll just get more water. There is no more water,” she said.

California is not in a critical overdraft area.

“Our sub base in the Modesto subbasin is in better shape than many, but that’s because we’ve been such good stewards,” Lucas said.

This plan will destroy the health of the groundwater basin.

Lucas says that many communities in the area could be impacted heavily. Some communities’ sole water source is groundwater, and this plan will dry up their drinking water.

“There will be school children that don’t have the basic needs to live, and we know it. And we’ve told the state board that, and they don’t seem to care,” Lucas said.

The bigger problem that is not well known is that the state is trying to come in and run the dam operation long-term.

“If the state is in charge of Don Pedro and the running of our facilities, which we believe to be illegal, we do not know what they are going to do because they have not had a good track record thus far,” Lucas explained.

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Halting the Sacramento Water Grab

Rep. Denham calls on Congress to halt Sacramento Water Grab by enacting Denham Amendment

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

 Recently, U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), along with thirteen of his California colleagues, sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to make sure Rep. Denham’s House-passed amendment to stop Sacramento’s water grab is included in the next spending bill that is signed into law.

“My amendment halts the disastrous Bay-Delta Plan that would see 40 percent of our water flushed out into the ocean,” Rep. Denham said. “Congress must act to protect the Valley.”

Rep. Jeff Denham, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

 Rep. Denham’s amendment to stop the state’s dangerous water grab passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July as part of a Department of the Interior appropriations bill and put a major spotlight on this issue. The amendment, currently awaiting a vote in the Senate, prohibits federal agencies from participating in the state’s plan to deplete the federally-owned New Melones reservoir, which provides water for the Central Valley Project and generates hydropower.

Sacramento’s plan would drain significantly more water from New Melones each year, potentially leaving it completely dry some years.

Sacramento’s planned water grab would do irreparable damage to Central Valley communities, directly interfering with the New Melones Project’s ability to store water and the Central Valley Project’s ability to deliver water.

The plan would subvert the will of Congress and jeopardize a significant portion of the nation’s agricultural productivity. Following a visit to New Melones at the request of Rep. Denham, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke sent a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board highlighting serious concerns with the plan and directed his agencies to propose a new plan to maximize water storage and resolve issues with the state, among other directives. 

Rep. Denham will continue fighting to protect Central Valley water, support science-driven river management plans that revitalize our rivers without recklessly wasting water, and push major policies like the New WATER Act that will solve California’s water storage crisis and keep the Valley fertile and prosperous for generations to come.

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State Water Resources Control Board Grab for Salmon Will Impact Federal Water

Feds and State Usually Do Not Work Well Together

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today continues our report on the recent water rally in Sacramento at the capital building. Farmers and stakeholders attended to protest the California State Water Resources Control Board Proposed Water Grab 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers redirected to increase flows for salmon.

U.S. representative for the 16th district Jim Costa explained how federal and state water projects would be drastically impeded.

There are distinctions between state and federal laws as relates to water. However, there are federal water projects. In this case, New Melones  Dam, a Federal Central Valley Water Project site, will be severely impacted, which could be a problem for the Water Board’s plan,” Costa said.  “With all of the challenges in water, none in the last 20 years have worked together between the Central Valley Water Project and the State Water Project.”

 Adam Gray, 21st district assemblymen representing Merced and Stanislaus counties, explained the fight with the water resources board over the years.

“For the six years I’ve been in the assembly, we have been fighting this fight with the state water board, and despite repeated concerns that we have raised, testimony that I provided and members of my community have provided, the state continues to ignore the concerns and the farmers are not happy,” Gray said. “We are going to raise our voices as loud as they need to be and talk to whoever we need to talk to to get a fair deal on this.”

“The irrigation districts have science-based plans that involve habitat restoration, water, rebuilding a river, and dealing with non-native predators,” he said. It is not going to be easy, and it is going to take sacrifice to make a fair deal. All they want to do is take, take, take, and it is all water with no consideration for those other things.”

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Steve Malanca Voices Frustration Regarding Water Grab

More Water Storage is What is Needed

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

At the capitol building in Sacramento, more than one thousand farmers and other stakeholders attended a big rally to protest the California State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab of 40 percent of the water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers to increase flows for salmon. California Ag Today met with Steve Malanca, co-founder of My Job Depends on Ag, as he explained the concerns for water storage.

“Being in western Fresno County at Ground Zero, where the water take has been going on for 30 years, we have continually asked for more storage,” he said.

Steve Malanca
Steve Malanca

The lack of surface delivery water and the lack of storage in the state of California is not good for anyone.

“The fish need water. The farms need water. We need fresh drinking water, and the problem continues to get worse with the amount of water we lose every winter out to the ocean,” Malanca said. “If that water could be saved and properly stored … this would generate more cold water for the salmon to live and spawn in. We just want them to know that we need help, but we need more water.”

U.S. Representative for the 16th district Jim Costa also attended the water rally and explained the devastating impact of the water restrictions.

“If there are 40 percent unimpeded flows were allowed to go through, it would have a devastating impact on those counties,” Costa said.

Jim Costa

California has reallocated water in the past and has not had very good results.

“What we have really got to do is talk about other proposals that take into account habitat, non-native predator species, non-point discharge and a balance that makes sense,” Costa said.

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Gubernatorial Candidate John Cox Denounces State Water Resources Board

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.

The California Farm Water Coalition estimates the financial impact to Valley communities could be over $3 billion annually, with 6,500 jobs lost as a result.

Cox visited Fresno County last month to express support for the proposition 3 water bond. This announcement was ahead of visits to Fresno and Bakersfield.

“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.”

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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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Officials Angered Over Temperance Flat Lack of Fun... The Will of The People Was Ignored By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor Agricultural leaders from cities, along with state and federal officials representin...
Denouncing Non-Funding of Temperance Flat Dam Proj... Officials Not Happy About Decision By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor Steve Worthley is a Tulare County Supervisor and president of the San Joaquin Valley...
Temperance Flat Denied Funding All Hope Dries Up By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor Again, it came down to fish, specifically Chinook salmon, that forced the proposed Temperance Flat Da...