As water storage has become one of the major issues California faces in the modern age, officials are looking for new ways to store water and provide flood management throughout the state. Much of the state is fed by the water coming down through Mount Shasta and Lassen by way of the Sacramento River, and a new plan to hold this water in a new lake is gaining steam.
The Sites Reservoir is a proposed 13-mile lake about 10 miles west of Maxwell in Colusa County that would hold nearly 200 billion gallons of water diverted from the Sacramento River. The project has bipartisan support among California politicians and will help manage the large number of water that travels down to the San Francisco Bay from Far NorCal.
Now, the federal Environmental Protection Agency invited sponsors of the Sites Reservoir project to apply for a $2.2 billion loan, which would cover 40 percent of the project and will be repaid by project participants.
“The significance of this opportunity cannot be overstated,” said Fritz Durst, chairman of the Sites
Project Authority. “We thank our federal partners and the Biden Administration for supporting Sites
Reservoir in such a meaningful way.”
The Sites Reservoir project is currently funded by over $1 billion in state water bond money (Proposition 1) and financial commitments from prospective users of the water, which is mostly Southern California water companies. With the extra $2.2 billion in loans, the project is becoming close to its goal of roughly $5.2 billion to complete the project.
“For Sites Reservoir to be built – bringing substantial and critical environmental benefits to California – it
has to be affordable for our participants. This loan can get us there,” added Durst.
The benefits of Sites Reservoir reach well-beyond water storage and flood management (although those benefits cannot be understated) with significant ramifications for Northern California wildlife. The reservoir’s water will allow colder water to be stored higher north, like Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake, which should help future salmon runs. The area would also double as a wildlife habitat for migratory birds and other native wildlife. The project would help create another renewable energy source and provide regional and statewide jobs for Northern Californians.
Not everyone supports the Sites Reservoir. Conservation groups like the Sierra Club oppose the project, preferring conservation over water storage. Either way, these water storage projects might deter lawmakers from attempting to increase the size of the Shasta Dam, which we’ve publicly opposed.
While the construction of the dam was authorized nearly 20 years ago, it looks as if there is finally some movement on this project. With recent forecasts of increased extreme weather in the state, it’s about time we finally put our money where our mouth is. Will the Sites Reservoir finally be built? Only time will tell.