U.S. Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) on May 6 introduced bipartisan legislation that would make low-interest federal financing available for reservoir and drought resiliency projects
H.R. 2979 would amend the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2014 to make public water projects like the off-stream Sites Reservoir Project eligible for low-interest, longer-term federal loans from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Garamendi said, in a news release.
Specifically, the bill would allow water projects with longer useful life spans, like Sites Reservoir, to receive federal WIFIA financing for 55-year loan terms instead of the current 35-year loan terms, thereby lowering the capital costs for such projects.
“This bipartisan legislation would unlock nearly $6 billion in low-interest federal financing for western water storage projects, including funds to build the off-stream Sites Reservoir in California’s northern Sacramento Valley,” Garamendi stated, in a press release. “We need all the federal and state resources we can get to meet California’s future water supply needs and achieve a truly drought-resilient water system capable of responding to the impacts of climate change. This critical legislation offers smart federal investment to upgrade California’s water supply by building new off-stream reservoirs necessitated by climate change.”
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 scorecard, California’s drinking water and dam infrastructure grades are C and C-, respectively. In California alone, it is estimated that over $2.5 billion is needed to repair dams and nearly $51 billion is needed to provide reliable water supplies, officials said.
Located west of Maxwell, the Sites project includes an off-stream reservoir located north-of-the-Delta where the majority of California’s rainfall occurs. Sites Reservoir would store water diverted from the Sacramento River during wet years for future releases to beneficiaries throughout the state during dry years.
“California is in dire need of additional storage, and projects like Sites Reservoir will provide operational flexibility and more reliable water delivery to benefit farms, communities, and the environment,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, after submitting the feasibility report to Congress in December. “The Sites Reservoir Project is an important opportunity for additional storage in northern California.”
H.R. 2979, if passed, would remove barriers to securing federal financing for new projects and for the repair and maintenance of existing water projects, officials said.
“This is a critically important piece of legislation that will help drive down the cost of essential water infrastructure investments nationwide, including Sites Reservoir,” said Sites Authority Chairman Fritz Durst, in a statement. “This legislation will help make the Sites Project even more affordable, particularly for local, Sacramento Valley agriculture, significantly reducing the cost of water. The annual debt service savings generated by the bill will also help spur additional local investments in other essential water infrastructure projects nationwide.” §