Spreck Rosekrans is an Economic Analyst at EDF.
Governor Schwarzenegger's recent water policy letter to three leading Senators [PDF] highlights California’s focus on building dams. The governor notes that the Department of Water Resources will complete studies for building Sites and Temperance Flat Reservoirs and for expanding Los Vaqueros Reservoir: "these projects, depending on how they are built and operated, can provide public benefits" and thus warrant public investment. (See the studies completed to date.)
But no proposal has specified how these reservoirs, in whole or in part, would be operated for public benefits. It is therefore not possible to evaluate the proposals. Here are some of the questions that need to be answered.
What public benefits are we talking about? Would a portion of an expanded Los Vaqueros Reservoir be used to modify water supply operations when at-risk fish species would otherwise be entrained in diversion facilities? Would building Sites Reservoir mean eliminating Red Bluff Diversion Dam, which blocks migration of endangered green sturgeon, winter- and spring-run chinook salmon?
Who would control the reservoirs – the California Department of Fish and Game? How would the reservoirs operate in relation to existing facilities, water rights and environmental protections? And are the reservoirs the best way to provide these benefits?
There are a lot more questions than answers. And the biggest question is: Without answers, why should Californians dedicate billions of dollars for these projects?