Lewis Griswold

Water bank seeks floodwaters, but Kings County says its needs come first

To beat a future drought, a water storage district in Kern County wants to build a reservoir in neighboring Kings County and fill it with excess floodwaters in wet years.

The water, primarily to come from the Kings River, would collect in the reservoir, then travel via the California Aqueduct to a 1.65 million acre-foot underground water bank, to be pumped out for agricultural use when needed.

The proposal by Semitropic Water Storage District is being met with skepticism in Kings County.

“We ought to be doing everything we can to keep that water in Kings County,” said Craig Pedersen, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

Last month, supervisors unanimously approved a letter to Semitropic opposing the project.

The letter noted that groundwater is “critically overdrafted” in the basin (Kings has some of the most severe land subsidence in California) and complying with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act remains a major challenge.

“Taking potential replenishment opportunities from Kings County to address groundwater basins in Kern County further offends the efforts of the county” and the entities combating overdraft, the letter said.

Semitropic has not shown property lease documents or licenses for the water it wants, the letter said. Additionally, the water storage district has labeled the proposal a “public project,” but it only benefits “select private landowners,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, the Kings River Water Association and the Kings River Conservation District sent a joint letter to Semitropic listing more than two dozen concerns, topped by groundwater sustainability and the effect on water rights held by association members.

Attempts to reach Semitropic for comment were unsuccessful.

Semitropic proposed the Tulare Lake Storage and Floodwater Protection Project a year ago.

The water would come from “unallocated floodwaters from the Kings River system and Tulare Lake tributaries,” it said in a document filed with the California Water Commission.

In December, the water storage district issued a notice of preparation for a draft environmental impact report for the proposed project in western Kings County. The document said floodwaters also could come from the Kaweah and Tule rivers feeding into Tulare Lake.

Floodwaters have occurred in about three out of every 10 years in the 40-year period ending 2015, the district said.

The reservoir, to be called the Kettleman Reservoir, would have 6- to 8-foot levees and could hold 15,000 to 30,000 acre-feet.

The water would make up for shortfalls in State Water Project deliveries, the district said. Additionally, the reservoir would be a new south-of-the-Delta facility that could store Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water via the aqueduct.

It also would create 12,000 acres of shallow water for birds, and there would be a wildlife viewing area.

FARMERSVILLE: Farmersville has received the Project of the Year Award for Economic Development because of its double roundabout that smooths traffic flow at the city’s north entrance.

The award by the Tulare County Association of Governments recognizes a project funded by Measure R, the countywide half-cent sales tax for roads, and other sources.

The twin roundabouts make it easier for drivers to navigate an area of freeway on- and offramps and local roads.

“For Farmersville, receiving the year’s top award in economic development realizes Farmersville’s vision of having infrastructure projects pave the way to new development, job creation and community prosperity,” city manager John Jansons said.

Lewis Griswold covers news of the South Valley for The Bee: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold