Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

State Bond Spurs Surface Water Storage

I listened to NRDC's Barry Nelson and others on Larry Mantle's show Wednesday morning - and I almost pulled off the road when I heard Nelson say that he had been working on policy stuff, not the bond stuff, so he didn't know much about some of the bond issues - including Temperance Flat.

One reason I almost pulled off the road is that 6 years ago, when Nelson schooled me, a young reporter at KQED, patiently and in detail, in our state's water policy follies, Temperance Flat was very much a live issue. By which I mean: perchance he knows more than he thinks.

The other is Temperance Flat. I left California for a little while after I covered water issues on the San Joaquin River. When I came back I was gobsmacked to hear Temperance Flat again. How does this project turn up like a bad penny every time?

Oh, right. Because some of us want it to. Including the Governor, who said frequently and loudly he wouldn't sign a bond without surface storage in it.

After much delay, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a study that purported to find Temperance Flat feasible and a good idea. (Don't be fooled by the October 2008 date; it came out in August of 2009.) For those of you familiar with cost-benefit analyses (hello, the two of you), it's basically 1 - which means that even in the best "sell" of the project, it's barely worth it. And the report doesn't account for costs from taking away prime water for kayakers, for costs from destroying Native American archaeological sites, and for costs from changing - dramatically - habitat for at least three kinds of fish (including the trout I used to catch with my dad).

I wonder if all the pieces of the bond puzzle are awesomely news-rich targets like this. Hope so.