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Who Gets the Water?

It baffles us why a fledgling Valley organization would have as one of its priorities to protect High Speed Rail, especially since they are using our tax money. 

Jul 02, 2016

We're somewhat baffled by the recent story announcing 'an agreement to begin a feasibility study of the project' (Temperance Flat).  After all, there was already a draft feasibility study done in 2014.  The Bureau issued a news release:  Reclamation Seeks Review and Comment on the Draft Feasibility Report for the Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation.  Same day, different source (Hanford Sentinel), they say the Bureau of Reclamation "will soon release their final feasibility report for the storage project and it will be positive - providing benefits for water supply reliability and the San Joaquin River ecosystem."  This article also refers to the local joint-powers authority (includes representatives from Tulare and Kings as well as Fresno, Merced and Madera counties) that was formed to get Temperance Flat built.  

We have no reason to believe that the feasibility report, whether it be a new one or the logical conclusion of the draft report, will be positive for farmers.  We wrote about it back in March of 2014 with a newsletter entitled "Is Temperance Flat the Answer?"  It clearly isn't the answer if farmers won't get much water which they weren't going to get according to the draft.  The study predicted 41,000 acre feet per year spread over 1.1-million acres.  That's way out of line.

Here are how some others wrote about it at the time:

From the Valley Economy blog: "The new feasibility study justifies the dam (Temperance Flat) for its ecosystem benefits to salmon. It values the ecosystem benefits 2-10 times higher than the water supply benefits."

From Brett Walton at Circle of Blue: "For instance, the bureau released a feasibility study last month for the $US 2.6 billion Temperance Flat project. Contrary to nearly every dam, Temperance Flat’s primary justification is not water supply, but environmental restoration. The dam will increase supplies for cities and farmers by a piddling amount, but its main purpose is storing cold water to help revive fish habitat in the San Joaquin River."

Here's the headline in the Valley Economy blog: "New Temperance Flat Feasibility Study Claims Salmon Benefits and Delta Earthquake Risk Reduction Justify the New Dam and a Big Taxpayer Subsidy." The blog goes on to explain, "This recasting of the dam as a salmon project is very surprising to me as I am not aware of any environmental groups or fishery experts pushing Temperance Flat dam as a priority, and there are even some environmental groups who are opposed."

Bottom line, Friant Dam is now too small to capture all the water coming from the watershed. So, currently, Valley farmers and communities effectively utilize flood events and other high water times to replenish the underground aquifer.  This water is available at very reasonable prices.
    
With the new Dam, these waters will now be captured and not available.  Half of the new water must be used for so called environmental purposes.  The other half will be available to those who want to pay for it at approximately $600/acre-foot.
    
So, Valley users are in a ‘lose-lose’ situation,  losing the opportunity to use water excess to current Friant storage, and being priced out of the new water.  This new organization (Joint-Powers Authority) owes an explanation to the Valley if this situation has changed. 
   
However, they have been successful in another venue which must be very important to the Supervisors who sit on this Board.  After two meetings with the Fresno Bee Editorial Board, they have successfully caused the Rail to Water Initiative to be delayed until possibly 2018.  It baffles us why a fledgling Valley organization would have as one of its priorities to protect High Speed Rail, especially since they are using our tax money.  Their claim that the Initiative threatens their effort is not supported by several legal experts.
 
Critical Temperance Flat Agreement Signed

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