A historic water project would triple the Valley’s capacity to save water could be in jeopardy of losing critical state funding.

Local water experts applied to receive a billion dollars to fund a new dam called Temperance Flat, now applicants say in a private meeting with the California Water Commission they learned their application needs changing.

Mario Santoyo with the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority says it’s not just their project, but all 11 competing applicants throughout the state were told they over estimated how much the public would benefit from their water storage proposals.
Santoyo says the state is supposed to release their phase one results Feb. 1, but says they aren’t waiting and are already preparing an appeal.

“It was a shock for all of us,” says Santoyo.

Santoyo says he expected the process to get a piece of the $7.5 billion–available for new water projects through Proposition 1–to be difficult.

He says he didn’t expect in the first phase that all 11 applicants would have to re-assess how much the public will benefit from each proposal.

“It’s not because of our application’s contents, it’s because commission staff is having difficulty maneuvering through the complexity of our applications,” says Santoyo.

“This is a brand new program,” says Chris Orrock, spokesperson for the California Water Commission.

Orrock says they are using a new program to evaluate proposals, but that doesn’t negate concerns the board expressed to each individual applicant during separate private meetings.

“This is the opportunity to better tell their story and better explain to us how these benefits can better be manifested through their project,” says Orrock.

Santoyo says nothing is wrong with the proposals many applicants spent months putting together, instead, the commission needs to come up with a better process to accurately evaluate each project.

“It’s hard to compare a big reservoir project for billions of dollars with a ground water project that’s maybe just a few million dollars,” says Santoyo.

Orrock says scores for the first phase will be released to applicants Feb. 1, then posted on their website the following day.

There are four phases.

The final decision will be made on which proposals get funding this summer.