Water & Drought

Temperance Flat plan takes next step: release of draft EIS

The campaign for a larger reservoir on the San Joaquin River took another step forward Friday with the release of a draft Environmental Impact Study outlining options to build Temperance Flat, northeast of Fresno.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will hold public hearings next month in Fresno and Sacramento to discuss the document, which discusses construction of a 1.33 million acre-foot reservoir at a higher elevation above Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin.

The Fresno meeting is planned from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Piccadilly Inn, 2305 W. Shaw Ave.

The public has until Oct. 21 to comment on the document. Bureau leaders say the final document, including the preferred alternative, is expected to be complete by July 2015.

Earlier this year, the bureau released a positive feasibility study with a new emphasis on fish restoration in the river. The price was pegged at $2.6 billion with the public picking up nearly half the tab.

The funding for a new reservoir relies heavily on the $7.5 billion water bond scheduled for the Nov. 4 ballot in California, said Mario Santoyo of the California Latino Water Coalition.

"It has taken us 10 years to get to this point," Santoyo said. "We need to secure the dollars to provide the storage that will benefit our cities, farms and groundwater conditions."

The idea of building a larger reservoir near Fresno has long been debated -- San Joaquin Valley farmers supporting it, environmentalists opposing it. Federal agencies have looked at the project five times in the last six decades.

When the feasibility study was released earlier this year, environmentalists said it had "magical thinking" to make the numbers work. Economist Jeffrey Michael of the Stockton-based University of the Pacific said the ecosystem benefit looks overstated to him, too.

Bureau officials defended the study, saying it used widely accepted factors.