Saturday , May 25 2024

Temperance Flat: Is there a way to save Millerton Cave?

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<p style="margin: 0px; text-align: left;"><br /> Getting water to the Central Valley is a problem we’ve become all too familiar with these days, and there are projects underway that aim to help. One of those projects though, seems to hinge on the tough call. In order to help one, you have to hurt another.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /><br /> Known as the Temperance Flat project, it’s a potential dam that promises to bring surface water to the Central Valley. It’s been an ongoing discussion<br />since 2003, and right now it remains in the review phase. <br /><br /> There have been multiple public meetings in Fresno, trying to explain what’s involved with its construction. Project leaders say it would cost anywhere between $2.5 and $3 billion dollars, funded by the federal government. The estimated extra water is about 70,000 acre feet. To compare, according to the city of Fresno, a single family household averages about a half acre foot per year.<br /><br /> The problem with the project, for some, is the fact that in order to get water to the surface, a rare would have to go.<br /><br /> The Millerton Cave system is found off the San Joaquin River, and is one of only a few of its kind in the world.<br /><br /> “This cave is unusual because it’s sculpted out of granite,” said Marcia Rasmussen.&nbsp; “Most of the caves in this area are marble.”<br /><br /> Rasmussen has been exploring the cave for about 15 years, and is big in the effort to save it.&nbsp; She says it made her sick to her stomach when she first heard what was being proposed.<br /><br /> “Once its inundated you get water flowing and bringing silt into the cave that would basically destroy the resource. It would make it something very different from what it is right now,” Rasmussen said.<br /><br /> On the other side of the argument though, is anyone who depends on water for a living. That includes Allen Ishida, a Tulare County supervisor and citrus farmer. <br /><br /> “My family’s operation has an annual budget of about $600,000 a year,” Ishida said. “We had to buy over $300,000 of water this year. Without surface water, this is going to go out of production.”<br /><br /> Ishida says last year, he received zero allocation of federal water, and his wells are drying up.&nbsp; He’s been heavily involved with getting Temperance Flat built, testifying in front of the House Committee and Senate 8 years ago. He also put together a coalition in favor of storage.<br /><br /> According to Ishida, a bulk of California’s citrus production is on the brink of extinction. Many farmers, he says, have already given up on whole orchards. He argues, when it comes to the caves… there’s no reason to choose them over people.<br /><br /> But for people like Rasmussen, who see more value in the caves, she argues that the dam won’t fix the drought.<br /><br /> “This won’t make it rain,” she said. “This won’t make the water come down from the sky.”<br /><br /> Rasmussen says she’d rather focus on conservation, that it would manage the same amount of water on a cheaper budget. <br /><br /> Right now, it’s still a waiting game with time running out. It appears it’s either farm or cave, and not much hope to save both.<br /><br /> “It’s very sad,” Rasmussen said. “Very sad.”<br /><br /> The Bureau of Reclamation is in the process of finalizing reports. They say a recommendation could be sent off to Congress as soon as July of this<br />year. If authorized and funded, it would be another 10 to 15 years before anything is built.<br /></p></div>

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