Representative Jim Costa, a Democrat from Fresno was welcomed at the event, by the mostly Republican crowd of farmers. Costa told them; "All of us share one thing in common not withstanding whatever difference we have, we have to increase our water supply in this Valley and in this state and that has to be our first our priority."
Costa noted how former Republican Congressman George Radanovich, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein worked together to get more than 20 million dollars in Federal funds to help the Madera Irrigation District get the water bank built.
The district spent close to 40 million of its own money buying 13 thousand acres of land the water from Millerton Lake will go under.
Gary Bursey of the Madera Irrigation District described the project as being like "A safe deposit in the bank." He said; "In each year during flood years we'll put in all the floodwater in the San Joaquin and Fresno that's available."
In heavy wet years some of the runoff that goes to the ocean will be stored here. For use during dry periods. In other years, irrigators can store whatever water they don't need immediately for later use.
Because the water comes from Federal supplies, the Bureau of Reclamation had to approve the water bank. The Bureau's Regional Director Donald Glasser says it's a key piece of the Valley's water storage puzzle, while studies on building more dams, and giant canals are underway. "Those solutions are like those are maybe 15 and 20 years out. Projects like this are solutions that we can do now."
Water from the Madera Irrigation Districts canal system is already trickling into the bank it's expected to take a few years for the bank to become fully operational, taking water in, and pumping it out to Valley farms when needed.