FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Millerton lake is only about 30-percent full. A wet winter is expected to help increase the level, and hopefully boost the water supply for Valley farmers. But after four years of drought many see a long term solution as a construction of another, much bigger, dam further upstream on the San Joaquin River, at an area known as Temperance Flat.
Supporters of the project, like Orange Cove Mayor Victor Lopez, feel it has to be done. "This is a dream that we have to make come true."
Lopez and Mayors from several Valley cities joined the Latino Water Coalition at Friant Dam to urge Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, of Orange County, to join their cause. Sanchez is a candidate for U.S. Senate, and her support could be crucial. When asked if she supports the dam she said, "I am going to have to sit down and discuss it with my colleagues and figure out what the solution for the dam is. I am for more supply and if it's one of the most viable, and we can get the community and the federal support for it, we would build it."
Getting federal and statewide support can be tough. While money from the state water bond has been designated for storage, that doesn't mean it will go for a dam. Environmental groups and others question whether the expected $3-billion cost is worth the environmental impact and damage it would cause. But farmers, like Kole Upton of Chowchilla, sees the dam as a potential lifesaver if the water it saves is used in the Valley. "If Temperance Flat was built that would give us the ability to have a lot more water available, assuming the water made available goes to us and not to metropolitan or the environmentalists."
The State Water Commission will begin allocating money from the state water bond at the end of next year. If they agree to fund Temperance Flat, construction could start in a few years, however, even supporters acknowledge lawsuits over environmental damage, loss of wildlife habitat, destruction of Native American resources could add years or even decades to the project.
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