The Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to form a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to ensure the Valley gets the funds to build Temperance Flat Dam. In November of last year, a $7.5 billion water bond was approved to repair the state’s aging water infrastructure. Of that money, $2.7 billion was allocated toward building or improving additional water storage, such as dams. According to the Association of California Water Agencies, “before bond dollars from Proposition 1 can be disbursed for actual projects, each state agency tasked with administering a competitive grant or loan process must develop and finalize guidelines for soliciting and evaluating project proposals.”
The JPA will bring together Fresno, Madera, Kings, Kern and Tulare Counties to request Prop1 funds. The funds will be used to finish the feasibility study and to build Temperance Dam. The JPA may grow in membership, as the goal is to create a nucleus of organizations in support of constructing of the dam. Other entities could include in the future, Fresno and Madera irrigation districts, Chowchilla Water District, Table Mountain Rancheria, and the cities of Mendota and Orange Cove.
Grant applications will be submitted to the California Water Commission (CWC) which is in charge of deciding which projects get funded, and how much money they receive. The CWC will award Prop 1 money in early 2017. It is estimated that Temperance Dam will cost $2.6 billion to complete. Sites Reservoir, near Maxwell in Northern California, also is in the running for the same pot of money. Its projected cost is $3.9 billion. Officials expect to use federal funds to supplement the state bond money to complete the dams.
Temperance will be a smaller dam located above Friant Dam, or Millerton Lake, to capture additional runoff from the Sierra Mountains into the San Joaquin River. Kings County has already voted to back the concept, and Fresno County is in support as long as they are not the lead agency. Kern and Madera Counties will be voting on the JPA this month.
When Proposition 1 passed, it was assumed that the Friant Water Authority (FWA) would be the entity to ask for Temperance Flat Dam funding from the CWC. The FWA used to represent 15,000 growers who bought San Joaquin River Water from Millerton Lake. But earlier this year the Authority imploded over differences of opinion stemming from the drought. The FWA lost its longtime General Manager, Ron Jacobsma, as well as 10 of its 21 original member districts, rendering the organization ineffectual.
Tulare County Supervisor Allen Ishida said that the Central Valley can have a political impact on getting Temperance Flat Dam built, pointing out that five counties standing together have a lot more power to be recognized by the state and water commission.
“But if we don’t have an entity we can’t get the funds,” he said. It was noted that Northern California was way ahead of the Central Valley in forming a JPA and that the Commission has taken note of that.