The Bureau of Reclamation has released the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation for a 45-day public review. The project proposes to build a 665-foot dam and 1.33 MAF reservoir at Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River between Friant and Kerckhoff dams.
“Releasing this draft for public comment today is a vital step toward building drought resilience in California,” said Mid-Pacific Regional Director David Murillo in a press release. “The unprecedented drought we are facing reinforces the need to do everything we can to develop and manage our limited and variable supplies to help meet the challenges of lean water years.”
Friant Dam’s 520,000 AF Millerton Lake is considered small for the 1.8 MAF average annual inflow to the reservoir. Construction of Temperance Flat would add substantial storage to the system, creating a reservoir upstream with a capacity roughly two and a half times the size of Millerton Lake.
The draft EIS examines the potential benefits as well as the physical, biological, cultural and social impacts of five alternatives, which vary based on operations and intake features, as well as a No Action Alternative. All five action alternatives propose to construct a new dam at Temperance Flat, modify operations at Friant Dam to work in coordination with the new facility, construct new hydropower facilities, increase flood storage space, and replace or upgrade recreational facilities. According to the draft EIS, each alternative analyzed would increase the flexibility of operations and improve water supply reliability for agricultural, urban, and environmental uses, as well as enhance water temperature and flow conditions for the benefit of salmon and other native species in the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam.
Potential beneficiaries of the water also vary with the alternatives, with not only the Friant division water users and Central Valley Project contractors in the San Joaquin Valley being potential beneficiaries of the water, but also Metropolitan Water District and other south-of-Delta State Water Project contractors, with supplies being delivered to SWP contractors either by utilizing existing cross-valley conveyance facilities or by exchange at the Mendota Pool.
The San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation will culminate with a Final Feasibility Report and a final Environmental Impact Statement, which will identify the preferred alternative. At that point, the project would need Congressional authorization to move forward.
There is currently no state CEQA review due to limitations in Department of Water Resources funding, although elements of the EIS have been prepared with a CEQA analysis in mind.
Written comments on the EIS are due before midnight on Tuesday, October 21. There will also be two public meetings in Sacramento on October 14 and in Fresno on October 16 to gather public comments on the document.