It would seem -- although the question was not asked -- that if the river is delivering more water to the westside and some of that water is seeping into the ground, that in drier years the westside farmers would have more groundwater available. The reason was question wasn't asked probably has to do with the influence of Fresno boosters for the Temperance Flats dam, above the Friant Dam. The group Revive the San Joaquin, probably not boosters for the Temperance Flats project, appears to be raising the question of the necessity of another dam on the river. Boosters for the Temperance Flats dam began to agitate for it right about the time the San Joaquin River Settlement Agreement became final.
Badlands Journal editorial board
Is restoration making more SJ River water available?...Mark Grossi
Chris Acree, executive director of Revive the San Joaquin, has been talking about a revolutionary idea on the San Joaquin River restoration.
He says the water releases from Friant Dam for the restoration may actually be making more water available for farmers and others. That's the exact opposite of what I've always heard.
Since 1988, farmers have dreaded this restoration, knowing they would have to give up irrigation water so the river could run again. The math seems simple enough. They give up water. The river runs year-round again. How could Acree be correct?
He says releasing water for the restoration creates new space behind the dam to capture rain runoff and snowmelt that would have been released in flood-control situations.
I see where he's going. He's talking about operating the dam differently. Let some water out continuously. Hold more water later on if a big snowmelt is taking place in spring.
And, combined with recapturing some of the released restoration water and sending it back to farms, he might have a point.
But these flood-release situations don't happen every year. Some years, there's far too much water to keep in the system. Some years, there's not nearly enough to go around. Who can figure out if there is more water or less by operating the dam differently?
Maybe it's time to see an engineering analysis from the federal government.
San Joaquin River restoration: Lawsuit says river flow is ruining Westside land
San Joaquin water is seeping onto farmland...Mark Grossi...The Fresno Bee
The first lawsuit in the San Joaquin River restoration has been filed by a Westside Valley farming family, claiming the replenished flows are damaging 13,000 prime acres, buildings and crops.
The Wolfsen family -- which includes the Skinner and Mueller families -- says the river has flooded, eroded and seeped into fields east of Los Banos.
A dollar amount for damages is not included in the case, which was filed Thursday in the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington D.C. An amount would be determined as the case proceeds.
A Wolfsen spokesman said the family is not trying to stop the long-awaited restoration, which began in October, more than 20 years after environmentalists sued to return water and salmon to the dried San Joaquin.
"This is a very narrowly focused lawsuit," Wolfsen spokesman Larry Harris said. "We want to preserve property and water rights."
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the lead agency in the restoration, declined to comment, saying it does not discuss pending litigation.
Seepage and flooding lawsuits from Westside landowners have been the biggest worry in the restoration.
The Westside landowners were not involved in the long-running lawsuit that ended with a restoration agreement in 2006. It was east Valley farmers who agreed to give up river irrigation water from Millerton Lake for the restoration.
Federal officials assured Westside growers that seepage and flooding would be closely monitored, but some landowners said the problem seemed inevitable.
Water has not flowed consistently through the dry Westside section since Friant Dam was finished 60 years ago. The Valley's flat landscape and the shriveled riverbed create the greatest chance for the water to escape the banks or seep out to saturate fields.
In the last year, federal officials have drilled several dozen groundwater monitoring wells to closely watch surrounding fields for seepage.
Bureau officials are actively investigating one seepage problem now in the area where the river had previously been dry. About a dozen such issues were reported and investigated during the past six months, officials said. No significant damage was found, according to federal documents.
Harris said Wolfsen representatives meet monthly with the Bureau of Reclamation to discuss the restoration and surrounding issues.
The Wolfsen lawsuit alleges damage in seven farming areas next to the river in Merced and Fresno counties, generally beyond Sack Dam. The lawsuit did not specify what the damage was and Harris declined to discuss specifics.
Besides compensation for the damage, the lawsuit also says the family seeks compensation for water that historically has gone to the Wolfsen farming operation, which dates to the 1880s.
The Wolfsens are known for cattle ranching and growing such crops as tomatoes, cotton and alfalfa.
The lawsuit raises an access issue as well. Cattle and vehicles cross wide flood-bypass channels that usually are dry during summer. Now, that access is gone.