The last large-scale water storage facility to be built in California was constructed in 1979, and now, almost 40 years later, the drought-stricken state will receive funding for projects to help secure its water supply thanks to two local representatives.
Valley Congressman Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) made sure that America’s Water Infrastructure Act, which passed the House last Thursday, included provisions that will support local irrigation districts and water agencies in their effort to improve and expand water projects throughout the state.
Through language from Denham’s New WATER Act, which authorizes a pilot project to help finance development of water infrastructure and was included in the WRDA bill, local irrigation districts will be able to apply for low-interest federal loans from the Environmental Protection Agency to finance new reservoirs, below ground storage projects, recycling and desalination projects.
“This bill revitalizes our waterways, bolsters flood protection and ensures our channels and harbors supply America and the world with goods,” Denham said of the bill while speaking on the floor before its passage. “But most importantly, this bill includes my New WATER Act, a provision that will help us to build new water storage in California.”Speaking to his colleagues in Congress, Denham pointed out that California’s last large-scale water storage facility was built in 1979.
“We’ve waited 50 years! 50 years because we don’t have federal financing and federal authorization. Finally, under this bill, the New WATER Act will set up financing for these new water projects and we can finally get some of these big reservoirs underway.”Congressman Jeff Denham
“We’ve waited 50 years! 50 years because we don’t have federal financing and federal authorization,” he said. “Finally, under this bill, the New WATER Act will set up financing for these new water projects and we can finally get some of these big reservoirs underway.”
The WRDA also includes legislation introduced by Costa and co-led by Denham that will enable Merced Irrigation District to take the first steps forward with a project to raise the spillway gates at New Exchequer Dam. Enlarging the storage capacity of Lake McClure and increasing water supplied for eastern Merced County up to 57,000-acre feet.
“57,000-acre feet of water is an important addition. It’s a lifeline — it can be — to our way of life in areas like the Valley where drought, as many of you have heard about, is an ever-present threat,” Costa said while defending his legislation in June. “Every drop of water counts.”
The Merced Irrigation District said on Thursday that thanks to passage of the WRDA, the Lake McClure storage enhancement project can now advance. It will include a physical modification of the existing spillways at Lake McClure to provide additional flood control space if needed and update the lake’s flood control manual, which hasn’t been done for about 30 years.
“This legislation creates a pathway for the first new surface water storage in the Valley in decades,” Costa said. “This is a victory for Merced County and the people of the Valley.”