[env-trinity] Temperance Flat Dam 8 7 10

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Sun Aug 8 18:51:36 PDT 2010

Is Temperance Flat Dam really just a shell game for real estate developers?


by Deirdre Des Jardins 
Saturday Aug 7th, 2010 1:40 PM 


The $11.1 billion state water bond would, among other things, authorize $3
billion for "new storage,", including a proposed dam at Temperance Flat, on
the San Joaquin River above Friant Dam in Fresno County. The second dam is
supposed to increase the reliability of the water supply for Eastside San
Joaquin Valley farmers. 



The dam-building crowd has long criticized Friant dam, built in the 1940's
on the San Joaquin River, as being too small to capture the entire flows of
the river in wet years. They forget that the dam was never designed to
divert the entire flow of the river. In fact many promises were made by the
federal government that only surplus flows would be diverted south via the
Friant-Kern canal. 

Instead, when the dam was completed, the Bureau of Reclamation dried up the
river, and sent the water south to big cotton growers. It was the first
great water grab in the San Joaquin Valley for private interests. And it
cheated regular Fresno residents of the many beneficial uses of the state's
second largest river. Riverfront homeowners sued, but lost after a 16 year
long legal battle. It took another 50 years to restore just 18% of the flow
of the river to its natural course. 

Fresno residents, having forgotten this history, and worried about shortages
of water for farming, are pushing to build a second dam at Temperance Flat.
The original purpose of the proposed second dam was to ensure the capture
all flows of the San Joaquin River, ensuring that none of it was ever
spilled by Friant dam to the dry San Joaquin riverbed. Even with this
assumption, the dam did not make economic sense unless the public paid for
half of it. 

With the recently mandated river restoration flows, the dam makes even less
Pre-restoration simulations prior showed that if the minimal pre-restoration
flows to the river were maintained, the dam could at best change delivery of
an average 116,000 acre feet of "surplus" high flow water in the winter.
Currently the high flow water is released to San Joaquin growers and
groundwater banks whenever Friant dam fills to the flood safety level.
Instead, the water held in the new upstream dam could be stored and
delivered on a schedule. 

Why would anyone pay $3 billion for a dam that would simply change the
timing of water deliveries to groundwater banks, which are specifically
designed and operated to store unpredictable flood flows? The answer lies
the need by real estate developers for "reliable" water supplies for new
subdivisions. "Surplus" flood flows are not reliable and cannot be used as
the primary water supply for a development. But if the water is held behind
a dam, it becomes a contracted, reliable supply. 

So the real benefits of Temperance Flat dam would go to the "conjunctive use
partners" who would put up about half the money for the construction of the
dam. These partners include the Metropolitan Water District of Southern
California, and the Westside Mutual Water Company controlled by Stewart
Resnick, who owns about 140,000 acres in Kern County. 

While the dam has been represented as increasing the reliability of the
Friant water supply for agriculture, growers along the Friant-Kern canal
would see little benefit from new contracts, because they would likely be
too expensive for agricultural use. The growers would however, lose the high
flow water remaining after the mandated San Joaquin Restoration flows, and
likely also see a reduction in water for Friant Class 2 contracts. 

One has to ask if this dam, sold to California taxpayers as "increasing
surface storage," is worth taxpayers paying half the $3 billion cost for the
supposed public benefit, or whether it is really just a shell game for water
brokers and real estate developers. 



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land/fax

415 519 4810 mobile

bwl3 at comcast.net 

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org 



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