The staff of the California Water Commission sure burst a bubble this week. They told the voters that their voice isn’t very important to them.
In 2014, the voters approved a 7 billion dollar bond measure to finance new water supply projects. Temperance Flat and other dam projects in Central and Northern California were pushed as absolutely essential for solving the drought issues in the future, and the money from the bonds, along with matching federal funds, were going to be used to build these dams.
This water is important. It’s needed even in a wet year. But a repeat of the half a decade of drought we just endured is always around the corner. That’s when the dam’s real value will be felt.
However, the staff of the water commission doesn’t agree. They recently released their benefit rating for these dams. Temperance Flat, like several of the projects, scored a big fat zero.
The scoring is a measure of the benefit the dam is supposed to provide. The projects need to score a 1 or higher to be considered. the score of 1 is a break-even; the dam cost-benefit is a wash. a score higher than one means the project will pay off more than it costs to build.
Another group – the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority – hired an expert to do their own assessment. they came up with a score of 2.8 for the Temperance Flat project. That means a payback of nearly three times the cost of the dam, a far cry from the zero the Water Commission’s staff gave it.
So why did they give a rating of zero? Could it be they are playing political games? After all, the California Water Commission is a political body. They are all appointed by the Governor and serve at his pleasure. They are supposed to consider all viewpoints when making their decisions. In the past, they seem to favor fish over farm and food; the delta smelt has stopped them from releasing water from the delta when we needed it the most, during the drought.
Let’s hope that they don’t decide that our water is best captured and hauled to us on a high speed rail. We definitely don’t want to trade water for a fast train ride.
I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West and Citrus Industry Magazine.