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California Water Commission Vote Makes It Official: “Tulare Lake Storage & Floodwater Protection Project” Ineligible for State Funding 

FRESNO – The Kings River Water Association (KRWA), representing opponents of the Semitropic Water Storage District’s proposed “Tulare Lake Storage & Floodwater Protection Project,” today praised the California Water Commission (CWC) for its vote making the project officially ineligible to receive public funds through the state’s Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP). The proposal by Kern County-based Semitropic, one of 11 projects competing for Proposition 1 water storage bond funds, would export floodwater from the Kings River basin for the benefit of private landholders outside the area.

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 CWC debunked Semitropic’s claim, instead placing the public benefit at 1 cent on the dollar, and after an appeal, increased the PBR to only 3 cents on the dollar. CWC staff determined that the project should be eligible for $0 in WSIP funds, and the CWC commissioners this week by a vote of 7-0 affirmed that the project would be ineligible to receive state funds.

“We commend the California Water Commission for recognizing that this proposal is a bad deal for taxpayers, and deserved to be rejected,” said Frank Zonneveld, Chairman of the Kings River Water Association. “This vote is a victory for the Kings River Watershed and all those who depend upon the Kings River. Proposition 1 funds should not be granted to a project that runs directly against the public’s interest, and we appreciate that CWC recognized that this project is filled with problems just too great to overcome.”

With a price tag of more than $600 million, 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.”

sLast 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 the Kings and Tulare Lake groundwater sub-basin users and communities.