A proposed dam at Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River above Friant is eligible for $171.3 million in funding, California officials announced today.

But while that’s a lot of money, it’s well short of what’s needed — along with federal and local financing — to make the $2.6 billion, 1.26 million acre-foot project a reality.

“We’re not done, but we’re damn close. We’ve got one more shot.” — Mario Santoya, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority

“We’re not done, but we’re damn close. We’ve got one more shot” to increase the state funding, said Mario Santoya, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority.

That one more shot is a meeting in early May when Temperance Flat promoters will make their case to the nine commissioners of the California Water Commission.

$40 Million And Not One Drop of Water

Thus far, $40 million has been spent trying to break ground on the dam. The breakdown is $38 million in federal funds and $2 million by the infrastructure authority.

Mario Santoyo

Temperance Flat received a zero in the initial scoring of proposed water-storage projects seeking funding from Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion “water bond” passed by voters in 2014.

“The commissioners will now have the weight on their shoulders,” Santoyo said. “Voters passed Prop. 1 with the expectation of big water projects. If that doesn’t happen, they won’t vote for future water bonds.”

The proposed Sites Reservoir, north of Sacramento, saw its tentative state award increase from $662.6 million to $933.3 million. But the estimated cost for the 13-mile long reservoir is $5.2 billion.

Commission staff did the first round of scoring, as well as the most recent scoring which resulted in the tentative award of $171.3 million for 18-mile long Temperance Flat. Project backers had sought $1 billion of the $2.7 billion set aside in Proposition 1 for water-storage projects.

Temperance Flat’s Fate Rests with Water Commissioners

Santoyo said the staff’s analysis of the project is befuddling.

“The bottom line is this, we submitted an appeals document that reflected a 2.8-to-1 benefit ratio. They, in turn, came back with a ratio of 0.38. There clearly is a bias from the perspective of the reviewers.”

Santoyo added that the project uses the same computer modeling for benefits as the “San Joaquin River restoration is using.”

Only two of the 11 projects under consideration had scores higher than 1.0. Both are small surface-storage proposals. They are Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project in Contra Costa County and Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project in Santa Clara County.

In a nutshell, Temperance Flat’s fate rests with the commissioners.

“We’ll see what kind of answer they give us,” Santoyo said.

To read about funding for other water-storage projects, click on this story from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Kurtis Alexander.

3 Responses

  1. Aaron Turner

    Excellent news! Intemperance Flat is a foolish boondoggle and huge waste of taxpayer’s money. The amount of water that would actually be released is far below the advertised holding capacity. The water would be so expensive that only big money interests, such as the Westlands millionaire-farmers & the MET water district in S. California, could afford it. It is being pushed as providing water to small farmers & cities, but this is a bald face lie! As a dam that would only be used in very wet years (every 4 or 5 years), it makes little sense and global warming will begin to make that even more infrequent. Also, no one ever mentions the huge environmental loss to the unique & beautiful river gorge above Millerton Lake. Many miles of hiking, biking & riding trails will be drowned as well as the large bridge, campground, nature center, caves, kayaking routes and two power plants! All of this natural beauty lost so some fat cats can plant more almond orchards on an arid land.

  2. MIke

    The article does not explain what the $171M is for , if building the Dam itself doesn’t make sense.
    Couldn’t the $171 be spent Groundwater recharge projects and actually make a difference?
    And it would be very interesting to actually get some understanding of the technical debate over the value of Temperance Flat. This just tells us it is a political football, nothing about the actual merits of the controversy.

    • Bill McEwen

      The merits are covered in the article. It is called public benefit ratio. To be built, Temperance Flat would have to score high. It doesn’t. It first scored a zero. In the second round, it scored .038-to-1. Temperance Flat promoters say, by their modeling, it scores 2.8-to-1. As you can readily see, that’s a wide gap in opinion. To see how all of the proposed projects scored, go to this link:


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