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Water Agencies Pledge Cooperation on Temperance Flat Reservoir

Four agencies representing water users in the San Joaquin Valley today signed a joint letter to the California Water Commission pledging collaboration in developing the Temperance Flat Reservoir project with the goal of submitting an application for Proposition 1 storage funding for the project by Aug. 14.

The joint letter was signed during a news conference at Fresno City Hall. Signatories included representatives from the Friant Water Authority, San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority, San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, and San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority.

“The limitations of California’s aging water infrastructure to meet present and future challenges have never been more apparent than today,” Jason Phillips, chief executive officer of the Friant Water Authority, said in a written statement.“Recent extremes we’ve experienced – back-to-back drought and flood years – demonstrate the challenges that new storage could help address.

“The (Temperance Flat) project could provide a secure place to store supplies for dry years, improve the capture of high flows for groundwater infiltration in wet years, and provide additional controllable supply that could improve water supply reliability or support ecosystems. Today’s letter provides an important step towards crystalizing the benefits of Temperance Flat and understanding how investors could share in them.”

The press event was hosted by Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, who pledged his support of the group’s efforts to jumpstart the reservoir project.

In the joint letter, addressed to CWC Acting Executive Officer Taryn Ravazzini, the agencies pledge to work with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and contribute equally on staff, funding, support, and other resources to support the Temperance Flat project. Currently, the four agencies are collaborating on technical analyses and an operations plan that would build upon previous Temperance Flat studies, and also provide clarity to how partners in this project — including the State of California — could benefit from new investments in storage on the San Joaquin River.

A new reservoir in the upper San Joaquin River watershed has been considered for decades as is widely viewed as a way to improve operational flexibility, water supply and reliability for the San Joaquin Valley’s water users. Temperance Flat Reservoir, which if built would have a capacity of 1.3 million acre-feet (2.5 times that of existing Millerton Lake), is proposed on a site several miles upstream from Friant Dam that was the originally proposed location for a Millerton-area reservoir in 1930. The present Friant Dam location was selected to reduce construction costs.

With the 2014 passage of Proposition 1, California voters authorized $7.545 billion in general obligation bonds, which includes $2.7 billion for surface water storage development. The C is administering the program to award grant funds to eligible projects through a competitive process.

“If the supply of food and fiber that is produced in the Central Valley and enjoyed by millions around the world is to continue, then a dependable water supply must be developed. California’s forefathers provided a foundation in water that has benefited us through the years and construction of Temperance Flat Reservoir enables us to build on that valuable history and provide an essential portion of the needed water supply that will benefit cities, disadvantaged communities, farms, groundwater recharge and responsible environmental benefits,” said Steve Chedester, executive director of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority.

Steve Worthley, president of  San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority and chairman of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, underscored the negative economic impacts of reductions in Central Valley Project deliveries due to environmental restrictions.

“Greatly reduced Central Valley Project water deliveries because of Delta environmental restrictions have been the rule for nearly a decade, with severe economic and social impacts caused by diminished water supplies for agriculture, cities and disadvantages rural communities, business and industry,” said Wothley. “Over the past year, the Authority and a growing number of other water agencies have worked tirelessly to support Temperance Flat and to encourage planning and development of other new valley water infrastructure.”

Ara Azhderian, water policy administrator of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, said  “failed regulatory fish policies has crippled the ability of the Central Valley Project to adequately serve its agricultural, municipal, and environmental responsibilities.” said.

 “These failed policies have hurt many working families, disadvantaged communities, wildlife refuges and the groundwater basins we all have had to rely upon to compensate for the loss of our promised surface water…,” said Azhderian. “Temperance Flat has great potential to help restore lost water supply and recover our depleted groundwater basins, enhance fish and wildlife, and help rejuvenate the communities that provide so much for our state, nation and the world.”

Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) also expressed his support for the project.

“The entire state of California needs its water infrastructure updated, and that includes building water storage projects, like Temperance Flat Dam. The future viability of the San Joaquin Valley is dependent upon a reliable water supply,” said Costa. “Efforts to store water must be improved, both below and above ground, during wet years so water is available during the dry years.” 

(Photo: Mario Santoyo, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, speaks at the podium during a signing ceremony for a letter of cooperation on the Temperance Flat project. He is surrounded by other signatories.) 

Original author: Pamela Martineau
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