by Michelle Moons
FRESNO, CA – “Dam [thumbs up]… Train [thumbs down]… Governor, put our water before your train,” reads a billboard message erected by Fresno City Councilman Steve Brandau, revealed this week in California’s Central Valley.
“We don’t have a train shortage, we have a water shortage,” Brandau told Breitbart California. His message comes as California is in serious, extended drought, while Governor Jerry Brown has made it his priority to push forward the troubled high-speed rail project.
The “Dam” references the proposed Temperance Flat Dam. In 2014, Californians were sold on passing the Proposition 1 water bond on the premise that funds would be used for water storage, including the construction of Temperance Flat Dam. But funds are slow to flow the way voters believed they would.
DamTrain.com, the website associated with the billboard argues, “On average, more than 450,000 acre/feet of fresh water are released due to overcapacity at Friant [Dam] every year. That’s enough water for 1.8 million households! Temperance Flat could capture that flood release.”
“It’s all about priorities,” Brandau said, “If you chase two rabbits you won’t catch either.” According to the councilman, the response to the message has been overwhelmingly positive, with 4- or 5-to-1 in support. Within 24 hours of the campaign’s launch, DamTrain’s Facebook page had collected over 1,250 likes.
Governor Brown’s office issued a statement to Fresno ABC News affiliate KFSN in response to the billboard: “This is the definition of a false choice. California is a growing state that must fix its aging transportation and water infrastructure…both are a priority.”
But with only $6 billion in available funds for a near-$70 billion project, and continued lawsuits over property condemnations, the high-speed rail isn’t likely to provide any relief to Californians anytime soon.
Fresno City Councilman Lee Brand told KSFN/ABC30 that the bullet train “[s]ymbolizes in one picture the frustration, the anger of thousands of people in the valley.”
The estimated cost to build the Temperance Dam is still a considerable $2.6 billion and still would take time, but would make sense, according to a federal environmental impact report cited by the Fresno Bee. Proponents say the dam will be helpful for years to come, and pull strain away from overtaxed groundwater supplies and other northern California water sources.
DamTrain also states, “The CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) process is often so daunting that major projects such as Temperance Flat Dam become virtually impossible. This is the exact reason Governor Brown waived that process for his High Speed Rail project and a sport stadium in Sacramento.” A petition on DamTrain calls for similar CEQA waivers for the Temperance Dam.
The stated goal of the DamTrain campaign is not to “trash” the high-speed rail project, but rather, “to ask that water infrastructure and specifically Temperance Flat Dam be addressed with equal or greater urgency.”