To say that figuring out the state funding formula for the proposed Temperance Flat dam is complicated is an understatement.
But the reason for the state’s decision to award just $171 million for the $2.6 billion project is crystal clear.
The California Water Commission determined that the dam wouldn’t help spring-run Chinook salmon on the San Joaquin River.
Not even a nickel.
The commission’s verdict disappointed those Fresno area leaders who strongly support Temperance Flat, which would provide more water for area farmers and cities. Last November, the Fresno City Council approved spending $500,000 for pre-design work as part of the project. All told, $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.
The commission debated this week how much of Proposition 1 “water bond” money should be awarded to 11 different water storage projects. Backers of the Temperance Flat Reservoir asked for $1 billion. CWC staff offered up $171 million instead, or just 16% of what they asked.
Eight Gov. Jerry Brown appointees comprise the water commission (one slot is vacant). The board consists of six Democrats, one Republican and one No Party Preference. Two members represent the Central Valley — Los Banos farmer Joe Del Bosque (NPP), and Visalia community development specialist Maria Herrera (Democrat). Additionally, CWC chairman Armando Quintero of San Rafael serves as the executive director of the UC Merced Sierra Nevada Research Institute.
Following hours of debate on Wednesday and Thursday (May 2-3), the eight commissioners did not override staff’s allocation recommendation.
The project contained five categories of public benefit. The commission voted on them separately. Flood control, emergency response and ecosystem — refuge water supply received the recommended $400 million. Commissioners bundled those elements into one 7-0 vote.
Members also added $100 million for recreation over staff suggestion of $0. That passed by a 5-1 vote (with one abstention and one commissioner absent).
But, the big sticking point was the ecosystem — fishery improvement for spring-run Chinook salmon. Staff said the dam provided no benefit. By a 4-3 vote, the commission agreed. Because of the formula used to determine the projects, the two ecosystem benefits must be half of the overall funding amount. The refuge water supply ecosystem benefit was worth $85 million, thus the $171 million award.
The San Joaquin Water Infrastructure Authority, the agency in charge of Temperance Flat, now looks to the next steps, according to its executive director, Mario Santoyo.
“We are not talking about a lawsuit, right now. The board will make any future decisions,” he said.
Local elected officials expressed disappointment about the low funding and vowed to keep fighting for the dam.
“The Commission’s refusal to fund critical water infrastructure projects is unacceptable and I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure the completion of the Temperance Flat Project,” said Rep. David G. Valadao (R-Hanford).
Said Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno): “This was a once-in-a-lifetime 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.”
Environmentalists, meanwhile, call the project a boondoggle and say it would capture water only in extremely wet years.
Negotiation, No Buy Back for Fresno County Property
The Fresno Board of Supervisors opted not to buy back a property it sold at a tax sale without telling the owners it was contaminated.
Instead, the governing body voted 4-1 Tuesday (May 1) to negotiate a settlement of an ongoing lawsuit with the buyers.
County staff said a “clerical error” prevented the proper notification before the 2014 sale at a tax auction. A Fresno County Superior Court judge initially sided with the county but was overruled by the state Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal. Whether the county had an obligation to inform the buyer of the property’s status is the main issue of the lawsuit.
Staff recommended that the county reverse the sale, returning $460,000 plus more than $57,000 in interest for the warehouse at 2696 S. Maple near Fresno. But James Wilkins, an attorney representing the buyer, said that his clients had already sunk $300,000 into cleaning up the land.
The board’s vote continued the issue for 60 days, allowing county staff to negotiate a deal. Supervisor Nathan Magsig voted no, believing the county is not at fault.
District 7 Debate Notes
The three candidates running for Fresno City Council, District 7 met Tuesday (May 1) in a forum hosted by GV Wire, CMAC and Fresno’s Leading Young Professionals.
Some notes not covered in our recap: When discussing improving Blackstone Avenue, the issue of human trafficking was brought up. Veva Islas said the best way to solve that problem was ensuring that women have access to equal pay.
“There are limited employment opportunities, and so the choice becomes very limited. I don’t blame someone for wanting to survive,” Islas said.
Debra Rush, co-founder and CEO of Breaking the Chains — a nonprofit that helps victims of human trafficking — wasn’t sure that Islas understood all of the reasons women become prostitutes.
“That’s absolute ignorance,” Rush told me. Rush said women rarely use prostitution as a means to earn money. They are usually victims of exploitation, she said.
Nelson Esparza said he is willing to fund a special election if he leaves his current elected position as a trustee with the Fresno County Board of Education. But he said it was likely that the board would choose a designee to fill his slot until the position is up for election in November 2020.
According to board bylaws and state law, the board can fill a vacancy by appointing an interim trustee for the rest of the term. However, the public may force a 2019 special election by collecting 25 verified signatures.
Judicial Race Fundraising
Four attorneys are vying for two seats on the Fresno County Superior Court bench.
Many from the legal profession show up in the donor logs. Here is a look at their fundraising.
|Name||Funds Raised||Cash on hand (as of 4/21/18)|
($13,200 in loans)
Terrence’s top contributors are Jeannie Grech and Juliet Campos (partners in Campos Brothers Farms), BV Law Group and Beitchman & Zekian, at $5,000 each. Terrence is a prosecutor in the Fresno County District Attorney’s office. His boss, DA Lisa Smittcamp donated $355 in the form of tickets for community events from her campaign funds.
Wilson received $13,000 in loans from Jeri Luckett-Wilson, listed as a bookkeeper in his law office. Roger T. Nuttall, Inc. is the top monetary donor at $1,500.
|Name||Funds Raised||Cash on hand (as of 4/21/18)|
In the Woodward-Mangano race, the money is pretty one-sided. Mangano, another prosecutor in the DA’s office, collected money from 110 different contributors. Woodward received six contributions, half in the form of loans from himself.
Campos Land Company and Juliet Campos, a partner in that company, contributed $5,000 each to Mangano, his top sponsor. His most interesting donor? His boss, Smitcamp, who gave $25 from her campaign account.