Dam projects pushed by Valley congressmen

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Congressmen David Valadao and Jim Costa are pushing legislation to get dams off the drawing board and closer to construction. (KFSN)

The drought has raised the call for building and expanding dams. Valley congressmen are behind the push. But it's a divisive issue, and critics say dams are not the best way to save water.
Republican Congressman David Valadao wants to make it easier to decide if dams can be expanded. His latest bill would allow dam safety inspectors to assess the ability of any dam to be expanded, instead of requiring other studies.

"What it does is it requires that when the folks go out and inspect these reservoirs around the state of California inspect them, they not only look for structural soundness but they also make sure to look for opportunities to expand the reservoir," said Valadao.

The measure is supported by a dozen Republican members of Congress and only one Democrat, Jim Costa of Fresno. Costa and Valadao have also teamed up on another measure, forcing the Bureau of Reclamation to quickly wrap up their feasibility studies to determine if building Temperance Flat Dam, and expanding other dams, should be done.

"We've got feasibility studies that have been going on for over a decade on projects like Temperance, and we've asked for them to end those and to finally come up with an answer," said Valadao.

But Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network believes the projects need a full review, especially to determine if they are worth the cost to the taxpayers.

"What Valadao is doing is he's trying to get these projects authorized to build by Congress," said Stokely. "But if we want to use our money wisely to have a more reliable water supply for California, we should be looking at other projects that are more cost-effective, such as recycling and conservation. What this does is it basically makes it so they don't have to justify it economically."

Dr. Robert Merrill, an earth sciences professor emeritus at Fresno State and geologist, believes underground storage is cheaper than dams, and better suited to the changing climate conditions.

"If we get less snowpack and less rain, less total precipitation, we are going to have a reservoir that doesn't provide the benefits that we've had in the past from reservoirs," said Merrill.

Merrill believes the key to dealing with droughts is to save water in the ground, where it doesn't evaporate and can be better managed.

"We need to have in place groundwater recharge to capture floodwater runoff, and actually we can build those for about a third of the cost of building Temperance Flat," said Merrill.

Valadao's legislation is supported by Republicans, but only one Democrat, Jim Costa, has signed on.
Related Topics:
politicsdroughtwaterwater conservationbillscongressdavid valadaojim costafresnoFresno
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