Wednesday, May 31, 2006

New Dam on the San Joaquin River

In this article from Monday’s Fresno Bee the process of building a new $1.2 billion dam on the San Joaquin River is moving right along and gives a sense (somewhat) of the process we are now going through with the Auburn Dam.

Here is an excerpt.

To dam, or just think about it
That is the question consuming farmers, leaders and activists.
By Mark Grossi / The Fresno Bee (Updated Monday, May 29, 2006, 5:12 AM)

Farmers and Fresno city leaders say the time has come for a new dam on the San Joaquin River — the first such major project in more than six decades.

But environmentalists and others say the campaign this year for $1.2 billion to build the dam is not working because the San Joaquin Valley hasn't waited long enough.

Important details on a new reservoir are not yet available, they say, such as the exact location, the true cost, who pays and who would benefit. Since 2003, the federal government has been working on a $16 million study that will fill in many of the blanks.

But such studies take years for a reservoir that would be more than twice the size of Millerton Lake. The study won't be finished until 2009.

That's the time to have the financing conversation, said Barry Nelson, senior analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, an environmental watchdog.

"It's simply not credible to talk about it yet," he said. "You can't just ask the public to hand over money without knowing more."

Many city leaders, such as Fresno Mayor Alan Autry, think the time is right. They say a larger reservoir would protect people from floods, especially in a wet year like this one, and provide more water for growing cities, farming and restoring the San Joaquin River.

Similar sentiments come from the Friant Water Users Authority, representing thousands of farmers who use the river for irrigation water.

Friant and NRDC have been facing off in court over river restoration since the 1980s. They are expected in the next month or so to settle an 18-year-old lawsuit over restoration, and a plan to restore dried portions of the river probably will emerge.

NRDC has opposed construction of a new dam, saying there already is enough water if it is managed differently. But Friant officials have long considered a new dam the key solution. The extra water in storage could be released to keep the river flowing, they have said.