After three days of hearings in Sacramento, the California Water Commission (CWC) has made its decision regarding the public benefits and funding eligibility of the Temperance Flat Reservoir Project. Commissioners stated the project would be eligible for $171.3 million in funding, or roughly six percent of the total cost to build the project which would create a new reservoir to hold more than one million acre-feet of water upstream of Millerton Reservoir in Friant.
The funding eligibility decision was a disappointment for supporters such as U.S. Congressman David G. Valadao, who released a statement that read in part, “despite severe water shortages throughout the state, and with complete disregard for the wishes of California voters, the California Water Commission has again acted to prevent funding for the proposed project, which, upon completion would more than double water storage on the San Joaquin River. The Commission’s refusal to fund critical water infrastructure projects is unacceptable.”
While the Temperance Flat Reservoir Project was not deemed ineligible as some of the projects were, Temperance Flat still only received a score of .47 in the Public Benefit Ratio decision. The five categories which comprise the overall public benefit were voted on separately to arrive at the $171.3 million total. There was some disagreement between commissioners and staff regarding the project’s creation of new recreational opportunities. However, all agreed on the consideration of ecosystem impacts and a perceived lack of benefit for Chinook Salmon.
Assemblyman Vince Fong also issued a statement with Assemblyman Jim Patterson stating, “The California Water Commission made a huge mistake today. They ignored every self-evident value of the Temperance Flat reservoir. This was an important and needed opportunity to save, store, move and use millions of acre-feet of water – water that is now wasted and recklessly flushed to the sea. Today’s decision was a shameful betrayal of the clear intention of voters when they approved these funds for surface storage.”
The overall cost of the project is estimated to be $2.7 billion, of which the application was seeking only $1 billion from the Proposition 1 Water Storage Investment Program funding available. The San Joaquin Valley Water Authority along with several of the commissioners voiced their frustration with the funding process that was created by the program.