A Federal Example Of Storage Process
Tom Barcellos did not need to look far from his Tulare County home to find a perfect example for the House Water and Power Subcommittee of how a federal water storage project is regulated and administered. For more than a decade, Tule River water users have been dealing with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on long-sought improvements and, later, possible seismic problems at Success Dam, east of Porterville.
“It is clear that the existing procedures for developing additional supplies need to be revised to make project approval less burdensome,” Barcellos, a Lower Tule River Irrigation District director and Tipton dairyman, told the subcommittee in Washington October 29.
He explained the Tule River Success Reservoir Enlargement Project, a Corps of Engineers flood control project under which the existing Success Dam spillway would be raised 10 feet and lengthened 165 feet to obtain 28,000 acre-feet of additional flood control and water conservation storage space in Lake Success.
Since Lake Success is relatively small with a capacity of 82,314 acre-feet, the project would increase reservoir storage by 34%, doubling downstream Porterville’s municipal flood protection and greatly diminishing any given year’s flood potential in rural areas along the lower Tule River. Preconstruction engineering and design were to have been finished in 2003 but are still not complete, even though non-federal sponsors have agreed on how to apportion local cost shares.
Corps Engineers concerns about Success Dam’s seismic safety led to several years of Lake Success storage restrictions. Barcellos said that if the planned project were operational, “we would have a valuable management tool that would better help us address the water resources challenges we face in the southern San Joaquin Valley.”
“The conjunctive management of surface and groundwater … is an essential component of water use where I farm. Storage of surface water is a vital part of utilizing water conjunctively; you cannot manage water conjunctively with groundwater recharge basins alone. In recent years, farmers in the valley have been forced to do more with less water, in large part due to recent reallocations of water away from agriculture and toward the perceived needs of fish protected by the Endangered Species Act.
WET YEAR STORAGE
“Having the enhanced ability to store surplus water derived in wet years for use in dry years and those times when environmental demands further restrict our available supplies provides additional management flexibility and multiple benefits.” He noted that on Tulare County’s neighboring Kaweah River, it took more than 20 years to develop Lake Kaweah’s enlargement by modifying Terminus Dam’s spillway, a project Barcellos said “has already demonstrated its effectiveness.”