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No Love for Tulare Lake Storage Project

While the Temperance Flat Reservoir Project has strong local support, the Tulare Lake Storage and Floodwater Protection Project continues to get slammed in the competition for state funds.

In February, the California Water Commission released its staff evaluation of the public benefits of the 11 projects competing for Proposition 1 water storage bond funds through the Water Storage Investment Program.


In its proposal — which is asking for $452 million of program funds — Kern County-based Semitropic Water Storage District stated that each dollar of public funds invested in the Tulare Lake Storage and Floodwater Protection Project would result in $1.62 in benefits to the public.

Initially, Water Commission staff gave the plan a public benefits ratio of 0.01, or 1 cent on the dollar.

On Friday, commission staff released revised public benefit ratios in response to applicant appeals received in February.

Upon review of Semitropic’s appeal, commission staff revised the public benefits ratio and increased it to 0.03, or 3 cents on the dollar. With this score, staff determined that the project should be eligible for $0 in program funds.

The project’s score is the lowest among all projects reviewed upon appeal.

The Kings River Water Association, representing opponents of the proposal by Kern County-based Semitropic Water Storage District, sent out a press release praising the commission’s findings.

“The state’s review of Semitropic’s appeal confirms what we’ve been saying from the outset: this proposal is a bad deal for taxpayers and should be rejected,” Frank Zonneveld, chairman of the Kings River Water Association, said in a press release. “Prop. 1 funds should not be granted to a project that runs directly against the public’s interest and we agree with CWC staff’s recommendation. This proposal is full of problems too great to overcome.”

According to its website, Semitropic’s proposal is to construct new south-of-Delta storage and conveyance features in the Tulare Lake and expand groundwater banking programs in Kern County. The project is meant to capture and store floodwaters from the Tulare Lake Basin to meet local demands, mitigate groundwater overdraft and support the Delta.

Critics said the project proposes to use the California Aqueduct to transfer naturally occurring water supply from the Kings Basin for the benefit of private landholders in Kern County.

In December, local governments, elected officials, water districts and small business leaders stated their opposition before the Water Commission, calling Semitropic’s proposal disastrous for Kings and Tulare groundwater sub-basin users and communities.

Kings River Water Association officials have sent the water commission a letter about the commission’s recent decision. In the letter, the association said Semitropic has no right or license to the waters of the Kings River and said the State Water Resources Control Board determined the Kings River was “fully-appropriated” a long time ago.

“That means there is no additional water available,” Kings River Watermaster Steve Haugen said in a press release.

Semitropic representatives could not be reached for comment.

Altogether, the Water Commission is expected to allot around $2.7 billion for new water storage projects and is set to make its final decisions in June.