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Temperance Flat Dam Public Meeting and Environmental Documents
The Temperance Flat Dam proposal has re-emerged from a long sleep and is now chugging forward out of
pure political might. This will be the tallest dam built in California, but will only catch the smallest amount of
water. Water-hungry agribusiness and politicians are promoting the proposal as a way to create new water
supplies, but look into the project details and see why this may be the worst possible infrastructure scenario
to satisfy our changing water needs. The result of a dam at Temperance Flat could mean less water, large
taxpayer subsidies, and even larger profits for its private development partners. Read on to learn more,
and join us October 16th at the Piccadilly Inn to voice your concern to the Bureau of Reclamation who is
spearheading this proposal.
Stop The Temperance Flat Dam And Help Save The San Joaquin River Gorge!
Please plan on attending public hearings during the week of October 13 to speak out against the Temperance Flat Dam and support Wild & Scenic River protection for the San Joaquin River Gorge. The meetings are:
Sacramento: Tuesday, Oct. 14, 1-3PM, 2800 Cottage Way, Rooms 1001-1002.
Fresno: Thursday, Oct. 16, 6-8PM, Piccadilly Inn, 2305 W. Shaw Avenue.
If you are from outside of Fresno, Friends of the River is working to coordinate car pools to the hearings. Please call Lily Amodio at (916) 764-2390 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in carpooling, particularly to the Fresno hearing.
The Issue at Hand
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) is seeking public comments in response to a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River Gorge. At risk is a magnificent river recommended by a federal agency for National Wild & Scenic River protection that provides outstanding opportunities for outdoor recreation on public lands in the Sierra foothills northeast of Fresno. Astoundingly, the proposed dam will produce little additional water and provide no relief from California’s chronic drought. But taxpayers will be asked to pay much of the bill for a destructive multi-billion dollar dam that will primarily benefit large agribusiness corporations in the southern Central Valley.
Please plan on attending and speaking out at upcoming public hearings in Sacramento and Fresno and send your email TODAY urging the Bureau of Reclamation to scrap its dubious plan to build this deadbeat dam! To stop this destructive dam and save this magnificent river, please scroll down to the TAKE ACTION section.
In the few years that it would actually store water, the reservoir behind the Temperance Flat Dam would flood thousands of acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the San Joaquin River Gorge. Outstanding scenery, class IV-V whitewater rapids, an extensive trail system, two public campgrounds, an environmental education center, and a natural and cultural history museum attract thousands of visitors to the San Joaquin River Gorge every year. The public lands in and surrounding the Gorge provide habitat for 24 sensitive, threatened, and endangered wildlife species. In addition, the dam will drown the unique Millerton Cave System, perhaps the world’s best example of a granite cave carved by a year round flowing underground stream.
The natural and cultural values of the Gorge are so outstanding that the BLM (ironically a fellow agency of the BOR under the Dept. of Interior) recommended Wild & Scenic River protection for more than five miles of the San Joaquin River Gorge in 2012. All the natural values in the Gorge and its Wild & Scenic River potential would be lost and many of its recreation amenities and visitor services would be degraded or require relocation if the Temperance Flat Dam were built.
BOR even admits in the DEIS that the loss of the Gorge beneath the still waters of the Temperance Flat reservoir is a significant, unavoidable impact. According to the DEIS, the dam would also significantly and unavoidably impact air quality, fisheries, riparian habitat, wildlife, cultural resources, soils, land use, noise, recreation, and scenery. Cumulatively, Temperance Flat would contribute to the continued violation of water quality standards in the San Joaquin River. In addition, the dam will actually be a net loser in terms of hydroelectric power because it will flood two existing PG&E hydroelectric plants.
The second largest river in California, the San Joaquin flows from the crest of the high Sierra westward towards the taxpayer subsidized cotton fields and pistachio orchards of the southern Central Valley. Along the way, the river is choked by seven major dams and reservoirs, which collectively divert so much water from the river that the San Joaquin formerly dried up west of Fresno. But an 18-year long lawsuit filed by conservation groups forced the BOR and the agribusiness dominated irrigation districts it serves to release water back into the river to restore its fabled run of Chinook salmon.
Now BOR is proposing to build yet another huge dam on the San Joaquin River and it claims that this dam will actually benefit salmon and the environment. But many conservation, fishing, and recreational groups believe that the new proposed dam is simply business as usual for those who believe dams are the solution to profligate water waste and misuse in the southern Central Valley – which means the San Joaquin River and its salmon restoration program are at risk.
The BOR’s Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation (a program name that only a government bureaucrat can appreciate) is focused on the proposed Temperance Flat Dam, which would be constructed on the San Joaquin River Gorge just upstream of the existing Millerton Reservoir and Friant Dam. The Temperance Flat Dam would be 665 feet high with a storage capacity of more than 1.3 million acre feet of water. But the dam would annually produce only about 61,000-94,000 acre-feet of water per year on average, depending on how it is operated. That’s about .2% of California’s annual water supply. Because of the dams and reservoirs that already capture most of the flow of the San Joaquin River, the reservoir behind the Temperance Flat Dam would only store a small amount of water one year out of three. A recent UC Davis study found that the state has over-allocated water rights in the San Joaquin River by an astounding 861%, which brings into question whether the Bureau has to the right capture any water behind the Temperance Flat Dam.
Despite increased public concern about the collapse of groundwater aquifers in the southern Central Valley due to over-pumping by agribusiness and cities, the Temperance Flat Dam will do little to solve this problem. In fact, there is no alternative in the DEIS that considers diverting rare flood flows from the valley segments of the San Joaquin River into shallow filtration basins that would allow for groundwater recharge. Big “Ag” apparently prefers that the public pay for another river-destroying dam while they continue to pump groundwater to the permanent detriment of aquifers with little or no regulation by the state.
BOR currently estimates that it would cost $2.6 billion to build and about $121 million a year to operate the Temperance Flat Dam. Although the biggest beneficiaries of the dam will be southern Central Valley agribusiness, the BOR claims that nearly half of the dam’s cost will be allocated to taxpayers who will receive “public benefits” in the form of increased salmon production in the San Joaquin River downstream of the dam. But the BOR’s own estimates of salmon improvements provided by the dam are a paltry .4% to 2.8% (again depending on how the dam is operated). Two of the BOR’s five dam operation scenarios will actually reduce salmon downstream in the river by -.6% to -13.1%! Why should taxpayers pay for an actual reduction in salmon in a river that we have been working to restore for more than 20 years?
Funding for this deadbeat dam could very well be approved by California voters when they go to the polls on November 4. On the ballot is a $7.5 billion water bond, of which nearly $3 billion will be allocated to pay for the “public benefits” provided by the Temperance Flat Dam and other speculative water projects in the Central Valley. What many voters don’t realize is that voting for the water bond is like using the state’s credit card. Future generations will pay millions to clear the debt incurred to build destructive dams we don’t need while the state continues to struggle to find adequate funding for education, health care, public safety, and parks.
BOR is holding public hearings in Sacramento and Fresno to receive public comments in response to the Temperance Flat Dam DEIR the week of October 13, 2014. They will also be accepting written comments by email or letter through October 27, 2014.
Take ACTION today to help save the San Joaquin River Gorge and stop the costly and destructive Temperance Flat Dam.
Download a fact sheet about the Temperance Flat Dam by visiting http://www.friendsoftheriver.org/site/DocServer/TFD_Fact_Sheet_Sep_2014.pdf?docID=9022.
To review the DEIS and appendices, visit http://www.usbr.gov/mp/sccao/storage.
For additional information, contact Steve Evans, Friends of the River’s Wild Rivers Consultant at email@example.com.
Email your comments TODAY to the BOR. The deadline for comments is Tuesday, October 21, 2014. Send your comment to Ms. Melissa Harris, Project Manager, Bureau of Reclamation, Planning Division, 2800 Cottage Way, MP-700, Sacramento, CA 95825, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel free to use the sample comment letter below and add your own personal views.
Ms. Melissa Harris
Bureau of Reclamation
2800 Cottage Way, MP-700
Sacramento, CA 95825
Re: Comments on the Temperance Flat Dam (USJRBSI) DEIS
Dear Ms. Harris:
Thank you for soliciting public comments in response to the Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation DEIS for the proposed Temperance Flat Dam.
As you know, the San Joaquin River Gorge is an important public lands recreation area. Thousands of people visit the Gorge every year to hike and ride bikes and horses on its extensive trail system, paddle its class IV-V rapids, and camp in its three campgrounds. In addition, hundreds of school children visit the Gorge’s natural history museum and learn about the Gorge’s natural and cultural history in its outdoor environmental education classrooms. All these public land resources and visitor opportunities would drown behind the Temperance Flat Dam.
The DEIS admits that the dam will cause unavoidable significant adverse impacts on the recreation values of the San Joaquin River Gorge. Other significant unavoidable impacts identified in the DEIS include loss of the unique Millerton Cave System, and destruction or degradation of air quality, fisheries, riparian habitat, wildlife, cultural resources, soils, land use, noise, and scenery. Of particular concern is the loss of the San Joaquin River Gorge, a nationally significant natural and cultural resource recommended by the BLM for protection in the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.
The significant impacts on this outstanding river are unacceptable given that the proposed Temperance Flat Dam will actually produce only a modest amount of water annually (about 61,000-94,000 acre-feet of water per year) while costing a whopping $2.6 billion dollars or more to build and nearly $121 million a year to operate. A recent UC Davis study found that the state has over-allocated water rights in the San Joaquin River by an astounding 861%, which brings into question whether the Bureau has to the right capture any water behind the Temperance Flat Dam.
The limited focus in the DEIS on building a dam fails to provide a reasonable range of alternatives. For example, this project does little to solve the severe groundwater overdraft in the southern Central Valley. It’s astounding that the DEIS fails to consider an alternative that would use rare San Joaquin River flood-flows to replenish the valley’s severely depleted groundwater, rather than storing water in a new surface reservoir that will destroy yet another river in the Sierra foothills.
I reject the Bureau’s attempt to foist 50% or more of the costs of this destructive dam on the taxpayers, supposedly to provide “public benefits” in the form of increased downstream salmon production in the San Joaquin River. Boosting downstream salmon by less then 3% isn’t worth destroying the upstream river canyon or the more than $1.3 billion that would be charged to the taxpayers. Even worse, two of the five dam operation scenarios will actually reduce salmon downstream in the river by up to 13.1%! Why would the Bureau seriously consider alternatives that would harm the salmon revival goals of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program?
The sad fact is this is a political dam. Any private investor would refuse to pay a penny for the dam because its costs far outweigh any real benefits. I urge the Bureau to reject the Temperance Flat Dam as a viable alternative to improve water supply reliability and help restore salmon. Instead, I urge the Bureau to focus on a groundwater restoration alternative that does not require a new dam upstream of Millerton Reservoir and to support the BLM’s Wild & Scenic recommendation for the San Joaquin River Gorge.
Please inform me of the Bureau’s ultimate decision concerning this project. Thank you.
(Name, Address, Email)