Opponents of Project Commend State Officials for Rejecting False Claims of “Public Benefits” by Project’s Backers
FRESNO – The Kings River Water Association (KRWA), representing opponents of the proposal by Kern County-based Semitropic Water Storage District to export floodwater from the Kings River basin for the benefit of private landholders outside the area, today praised the California Water Commission (CWC) for its further analysis of the purported benefits of Semitropic’s proposal. After a thorough review of Semitropic’s appeal of CWC staff’s initial evaluation, the proposal has been deemed eligible for no public funds through the state’s Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP).
In February, the California Water Commission released its staff evaluation of the public benefit of the 11 projects competing for Proposition 1 water storage bond funds. The evaluation was based on technical review by the California Water Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California Department of Water Resources, and the State Water Resources Control Board.
Last Friday, CWC staff released revised staff-recommended Public Benefit Ratios (PBRs) in response to applicant appeals received in February.
Semitropic had claimed in its proposal that each dollar of public funds invested in the project would result in $1.62 in benefits to the public. After months of analysis, the February CWC report thoroughly debunked Semitropic’s claim, instead placing the public benefit at 1 cent on the dollar. Upon review of Semitropic’s appeal, CWC revised the PBR, increasing it to only 3 cents on the dollar. As such, CWC staff has determined that the project should be eligible for $0 in WSIP funds. The project’s score is the lowest among all projects reviewed upon appeal.
“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,” said Frank Zonneveld, Chairman of the Kings River Water Association. “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.”
With a price tag of more than $600 million ($452 million of which would be paid for with Prop. 1 funds), the Semitropic project proposes to use the California Aqueduct to transfer naturally occurring water supply from the Kings Basin, one of the most critically over-drafted basins in the state, to Kern County. Semitropic has no right or license to the waters of the Kings River. The State Water Resources Control Board long ago determined the Kings River is “fully-appropriated.”
“That means there is no additional water available,” said Kings River Watermaster Steve Haugen.
Last December, more than 40 local governments, elected officials, water districts and small business leaders stated their opposition before the CWC, calling Semitropic’s proposal disastrous for Kings and Tulare groundwater sub-basin users and communities. The CWC was told that a proposal costing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars but is filled of problems too great to overcome should not be considered.
KRWA has submitted a letter in response to the CWC’s review.