Sites Reservoir was named last week as one of several water projects in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s final Water Resilience Portfolio, which was released July 28.
The outlined comprehensive water portfolio also includes the controversial Delta Tunnel project and the agribusiness-promoted voluntary agreements.
The portfolio outlines 142 state actions to help build a climate-resilient water system in the face of climate change, according to a press release from the Governor’s Office, and tie directly to the state’s effort to carry out recent laws regarding safe and affordable drinking water, groundwater sustainability, and water-use efficiency.
“Water is the lifeblood of our state, sustaining communities, wildlife and our economy,” said Governor Newsom, in a news release. “For more than a year, my administration has worked to assemble a blueprint to secure this vital and limited resource into the future in a way that builds climate resilience for all communities and sustains native fish and the habitat they need to thrive.”
Five years of historic drought have underscored the need for multi-benefit, regional investments, outlined in the comprehensive water portfolio, Sites officials said in a press release. The portfolio assesses and recommends a number of local and regional strategies and actions to help California plan for more extreme droughts and floods, rising temperatures, declining fish populations, aging infrastructure and population growth, and includes the Sites Reservoir, the proposed 1.3 million acre-feet water storage project to be built 10 miles west of Maxwell.
“We thank the Newsom administration for their dedication to this important issue, and are pleased that our state’s leaders are committed to advancing Sites Reservoir in a way that serves the environment and water supply needs for people and farms,” said Fritz Durst, chairman for the Sites Project Authority, in a statement. “Just as the Water Resilience Portfolio aims to help California adapt to a changing climate and new and increased environmental stressors, so does Sites Reservoir.”
The Sites Reservoir, first envisioned in the 1960s, could help restore water flexibility and reliability by capturing stormwater flows from the Sacramento River in wet years, for release primarily in dry and critical years, officials said.
“Building the off-stream Sites Reservoir will bring California closer to achieving a drought-resilient water system,” said U.S. Representative John Garamendi, in a statement. “Our state needs to make smart investments to meet future water supply needs, and Sites Reservoir will benefit farmers, our communities, and the environment. I thank Governor Newsom for his leadership in supporting this off-stream reservoir and his commitment to expedite state permitting and approval requirements for the project.”
While the water portfolio lays out the state’s long term plan to address safe drinking water, flood risks, depleted groundwater aquifers, water supply uncertainty for agriculture, and native fish populations in a number of ways, not everyone supports the Site Reservoir Project.
Conservation groups like the Sierra Club oppose the Sites Reservoir, which they believe will harm the river’s dynamic flow-based ecosystems, and that the restored riparian and aquatic habitats that have been restored on 20,000 acres of public land along the Sacramento River could be degraded by the diversions. ■