Landowners who may be affected by the Sites Reservoir Project now have a point of reference for how the Sites Joint Powers Authority plans to address a number of their concerns, at least through Phase 1 of the project.
The Sites JPA’s board of directors reviewed a draft set of recommended policies at a special meeting in Maxwell on Monday, Aug. 29. The proposed policies pertained to the acquisition and management of lands within the scope of the project.
The board approved the document with a number of small revisions. Sites JPA CEO Jim Watson said that about 90 percent of the original document was retained after the revisions.
The policies, as they were ultimately approved, will form the groundwork for a draft land management plan, which will be used throughout Phase 1 of the reservoir project.
“One of most important things that may be overlooked here is that the JPA is standing up and becoming a credible organization. This is the first set of policies, in terms of how we will move forward with the project: It’s a maturation process,” Watson said. “To me, that’s a huge step in being able to show that we are a legitimate agency and in applying for those Proposition 1 funds.”
The policies will also be used to develop responses to questions and concerns expressed in meetings with landowners in 2014.
“There was a 25-page compilation of comments and questions from landowners that had been put together a year and a half ago … there were a number of issues that hadn’t been addressed pertaining to land use,” Sites JPA board member and Colusa County Supervisor Gary Evans said. “We need to have some sort of policy in place to move forward. (Watson) did a good job in creating an atmosphere where the JPA can be flexible in addressing most of the issues.”
The Sites JPA is set to meet with landowners again next week, and Watson said that it was important to have policy positions approved before those landowner meetings take place. While the land use plan will be revised during subsequent phases to incorporate additional information and direction from the board of directors, Watson said policies needed to be developed now to keep landowners in the fold.
“These are policies that reflect our knowledge of the project and where we are today. When we go to certify the environmental documents, for example, we will learn more. Part of it is being a learning organization and changing where necessary as we go along,” Watson said. “What I’m concerned about is if you don’t start making policy now, you are not giving people direction and letting them know what to expect.”
Evans said that the board was still seeking comments from the affected landowners, noting that “things look very different from where they were two years ago.”
The first of the two landowner meetings next week will be held at the Sites JPA office in Maxwell on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 10 AM. The meeting is for landowners who fall within the footprint of the proposed reservoir.
The second meeting, which is being held for landowners affected by the proposed pipeline (stretching from Funk’s Reservoir to the Sacramento River), will take place at the same location on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 10 AM.
“Hopefully, we’ll show that the Authority wants to be flexible and fair, and not use a one-size-fits-all approach as you would typically find in a bigger organization,” Watson said.
A copy of the adopted draft policy document, including the revisions requested by the board, can be viewed here.