Protect the San Joaquin River! Stop AB 1649: Don’t let them fast-track deadbeat dams!

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Assembly Passes Bill That “Prioritizes” State Funding For Destructive Dam Projects

The Assembly approved a bill that prioritizes and expedites state funding for the controversial Temperance Flat Dam and Sites Reservoir. AB 1649 by Assembly Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) establishes a new state policy that gives priority to the formation of local joint powers authorities (JPAs) pushing for the construction of new dams in the Sacramento and San Joaquin watersheds. The bill also states without any substantiating evidence that Sites and Temperance Flat will meet statewide goals and provide public benefits “to the greatest extent” than other surface and groundwater storage projects. Sadly, the bill passed the floor on a bi-partisan vote.

The bill was opposed by Friends of the River, Sierra Club California, Clean Water Action, Planning and Conservation League, American Rivers, and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. In its written testimony, Friends of the River noted, “there is currently no factual evidence that either the Temperance Flat Dam or the Sites Reservoir will meet statewide goals or provide public benefits.”

As a practical matter, legally required environmental reviews and feasibility reports are not yet completed on these projects. Moreover, draft and preliminary environmental and feasibility documents show that these projects will actually produce very little new water, will cost billions of dollars, and harm fish and wildlife and their habitat.

Of particular concern is the less than factual statement that Temperance Flat and Sites will provide the greatest extent of public benefits.

In fact, the Bureau of Reclamation’s claim that the Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River Gorge will benefit downstream salmon has been disputed by the federal EPA, California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and agencies involved in the San Joaquin River Restoration Project. In addition, the dam will flood nearly nine miles of river canyon recommended by the Bureau of Land Management for Wild & Scenic protection and more than 5,000 acres of public lands providing outdoor recreation and education for as much as 84,000 visitors annually.

Potential water supply and environmental benefits from the Sites Reservoir remain unquantified because the California Dept. of Water Resources has yet to release draft environmental impact and feasibility reports for this controversial project. Friends of the River is strongly concerned that water diversions from the Sacramento River to fill Sites Reservoir will harm the river’s riparian and aquatic habitats and the numerous threatened and endangered fish and wildlife species that depend on these habitats.

During the committee hearing, Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) pointedly asked bill author Salas if AB 1649 basically picks “winners and losers” in regard to state funding from Proposition 1 for dam projects. Despite Mr. Salas’ denial, his bill does indeed prioritize and expedite state funding for Temperance Flat and Sites over less egregious surface storage projects like the proposed expansion of the Los Vaqueros and San Luis Reservoirs, or even more environmentally friendly groundwater storage projects.

What You Can Do:

Send an email to your Senator TODAY, urging him or her to reject AB 1649 when it comes for a vote on in their commitee or on the Senate floor. For more information concerning AB 1649, please contact Steve Evans at (916) 708-3155, email: sevans@friendsoftheriver.org.

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