Poor Ranking Won't Sink Sites Reservoir, Proponents Insist

Feb 27, 2018

Officials backing a massive public works project planned for the North State are firing back after a state body’s evaluation gave the proposed Sites Reservoir dismal scores.

Backers of Sites, along with 10 of the other 11 proposals have filed official appeals with the California Water Commission, the group charged with ranking proposals vying for $2.7 billion worth of voter approved bond money for new water storage. 

Only the Nevada Irrigation District and its proposed Centennial Dam on the Bear River declined to appeal. 

Jim Watson is the General Manager of the Sites Project Authority, the group pushing for a 1.8 million acre-foot reservoir in Colusa County west of Maxwell. He said he is believes the low rating is only a small stumbling block.

“I’m, I’m extremely confident,” Watson said.

Despite coming in fifth among the dozen proposals, Sites is potentially the largest. Watson said California hasn’t built a new reservoir in decades.

“We haven’t invested in our infrastructure since really the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project,” he said.

The era of building ended with the completion of New Melones in 1979, he said. Since then, both the state’s population and its agricultural needs have risen sharply.

Sites – which would be filled with floodwaters off the Sacramento River – could help reserve more cold water elsewhere, Watson said. Officials reserve and release cold water to manage river temperatures at times critical for salmon.

“It could be 100,000 to 200,000 acre-feet of additional cold water stored behind Shasta,” he said.

Officials are expected to begin reviewing the appeals Tuesday with a final determination of public benefits set for April 20th.