Ag Today January 9,2016

Water flows from Friant Dam as officials and farmers call for more storage


With the roar of rushing water as a backdrop, farming advocates and elected officials gathered at the base of Friant Dam on Friday to push for construction of the Temperance Flat dam.

The proposed dam, with a price tag of $2.8 billion, is considered a linchpin for the Valley’s water future and represents the ability to store more than 1.2 million acre-feet of water. That’s more than 2 1/2 times the capacity of Millerton Lake.

With a dam at Temperance Flat, excess runoff could be captured and stored instead of having to release it into the San Joaquin River to make room for an impending deluge.

The National Weather Service expects Fresno will get 2 to 2.5 inches of rain between Saturday and Monday, while Madera and Merced could see even more. The Sierra foothills could get 3 to 7 inches.

To prepare for the rain, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increased the release of water from Friant Dam from 3,000 cubic feet per second on Thursday to 5,000 cfs on Friday.

Water advocates said that while they understand the need for flood control, the water flowing down the river was being wasted.

“As a farmer, it makes me upset,” said Craig Pedersen, Kings County supervisor. “The water that is flowing out of here points to the necessity of a project like this.”

Pedersen is part of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, a group organized to support the planning and development of Temperance Flat dam. The authority is made up of supervisors from Fresno, Tulare, Madera, Kings and Merced counties along with rural city leaders and other agencies.

Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson said epic rainstorms will happen again, and the Valley needs to be prepared.

“These will be missed opportunities to capture, store and use our water for people and food,” Patterson said. “If we don’t act now, future generations will hold us accountable for our monumental failure to act.”