While Friant Dam releases thousands of gallons, farmers hope water storage project is the answer for the future

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Right now, 5,000 cubic feet of water pours out of Friant Dam per second. (KFSN)

Over five years of drought, we haven't seen a flood release at Friant Dam since 2011.

On Friday, the amount of water being released was increased 30 percent to make room for the next round of storm runoff. Right now, 5,000 cubic feet of water pours out of Friant Dam per second. To put that into perspective, think of 5,000 basketballs bouncing out each second.

The water streams down the San Joaquin and is not used for irrigation purposes.

"As a farmer, my stomach is so upset because we're releasing all this water," Kings County supervisor Craig Pedersen said.

Valley farmers and leaders gathered at Friant Dam hoping the Temperance Flat project can someday, a decade from now, be their pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The project calls for another dam inside the existing lake.

"These releases are waters that are not benefiting anything," said Steve Worthley, who's with the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority. "They're not benefiting wildlife, they're not helping farmers. It's just water going down a channel which will, ultimately, go into the San Francisco Bay."

Millerton Lake holds 520,000 acre-feet of water, but with more rain and more storm runoff expected as much as 300,000 acres of water may be released by the Bureau of Reclamation over the next 30 days to make room.

Fresno County supervisor Buddy Mendes says it's more than a flood release.

"We're losing jobs," he said. "I mean, this a deal for future jobs down the road, this is the east side disadvantaged communities."

But critics of Temperance Flat say the amount of water, which could be collected during wet years, does not justify a $2.6 billion price tag. They also cite the environmental impact of the project.

The project's feasibility is being studied. If approved by Congress, Temperance Flat would more than double the storage capability of Millerton Lake.
Related Topics:
Friant Damdroughtcaliforniafresno countyFresno County
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