BY ROBERT RODRIGUEZ /firstname.lastname@example.org
Advocates for increased water storage and a new dam gathered at a swollen Lost Lake in Fresno County on Friday to remind the community about the increased potential of flooding because of major releases of water from Friant Dam.
The water coming from Friant is being released to make room for more runoff, causing flooding in portions of the county park.
But advocates, who represent elected officials, farmers and the building trades, said the flooding could be prevented if the state and federal government invest in a dam at Temperance Flat. The dam is considered critical to the Valley’s water future.
Mario Santoyo, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority, said that in 1997 flood releases from Friant Dam created massive flooding downstream.
“What we’ve learned is that having the right size dam would keep us from having flood issues that we are seeing,” he said.
During a news conference Friday morning, supporters of a new dam said it is desperately needed.
THE CENTRAL VALLEY IS SCREAMING FOR THIS DAM, AND WE NEED HELP FROM THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE.
Mario Santoyo, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority
“This huge water year and massive flood release we are having are textbook illustrations of why the San Joaquin River absolutely must have much more water storage capacity than the limited amount available in Millerton Lake,” said Water Infrastructure Authority President Steve Worthley, who also is chairman of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors.
Santoyo said since Jan. 4, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has released nearly 680,000 acre-feet of water.
“That’s almost the entire east side’s supply of water,” Santoyo said.
The Water Infrastructure Authority was formed to help win state bond funding – under Proposition 1 – and congressional authorization for the project. The joint powers authority was organized in 2016 by Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera and Merced counties, along with cities and other agencies.
The state is accepting applications for Proposition 1 funding this month, and Santoyo hopes the dam can secure $1 billion toward the $3 billion project. The authority also will be seeking $1 billion from the federal government and the remaining $1 billion from the dam’s beneficiaries.
“The Central Valley is screaming for this dam, and we need help from the governor’s office,” Santoyo said. “This is a crisis.”