Tulare County Joins JPA

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted at their October 6 meeting to join with Fresno, Madera, Merced, and Kings Counties to form a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to apply for water bond money to build Temperance Flat Dam. The JPA will ultimately have 11 members including two from Valley cities, members from two irrigation districts, a member from a tribal council and one member at-large.

Initially, Fresno County–the proposed site of Temperance Flat Dam–only wanted counties to be members of the JPA, keeping it to a manageable five participants. Mario Santayo, of the California Clean Water Coalition, said that forming a diverse JPA is critical, and water commissioners want to see disadvantaged communities, tribal councils and water agencies participate in the process and benefit from bond money.

A $7.545 billion dollar water bond was passed in November of 2014, with 64% of the electorate in favor. The funds are to be spent on water quality, supply, treatment, and storage projects. The California Water Commission has been designated to allocate the bond money and seats several Central Valley members, including Maria Herrera of Visalia. Although more than 100 projects have expressed an interest in building storage, only $2.7 of the original $7.5 billion has been allocated for underground storage facilities like Kern County’s water bank, or above ground storage such as new dams.

The bond money does not necessarily go to the most deserving water projects, but to those which are best organized. Organizations are already on a tight time line as JPA’s are expected to have been organized and functioning. Sites Reservoir, north of the delta, Temperance Flat Dam’s largest competitor, is ahead of the South Valley in terms of an organized and functioning JPA, and has already started putting together their bid for the money.

The Sites Reservoir JPA started organizing four years ago when the passage of a water bond was far in the future but imminent nonetheless. Because of the nature of the state and level of organization needed, the Bureau of Reclamation feared that San Francisco and Los Angeles would receive most of the money. Sites Reservoir is considered Northern California.

It is projected that Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat Dam will need $3 billion each to be completed, so money received from the bond will just be the beginning.

Temperance Flat Dam is projected to be built in Fresno County on the San Joaquin River above Friant Dam on Millerton Lake and will add a million acre-feet of storage. Santoyo said, 50% of that water will benefit Tulare County. The water for Sites Reservoir would be diverted from the Sacramento River at Red Bluff and flow into the reservoir through the Tehama-Colusa Canal and canals in the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District. Sites would hold up to 1.8 million acre-feet of water from the Sacramento River.

The board of supervisors anticipates potential changes to the agreement, but approved the JPA to get the process going. Fresno County has already approved the agreement, while Merced, Kings and Madera counties are still reviewing it. Once all counties approve of the initial JPA, the plan is to develop by-laws and appoint the remaining members.

The JPA will be referred to as the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority.

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