Sites Reservoir makes progress; not everyone on board with plan

Mar 19, 2014 7:17 PM

The plan to build the Sites Reservoir in Colusa County picked up some steam as Congressmen John Garamendi (D) and Doug LaMalfa (R) announced plans to introduce legislation on it in Congress.

The first step, however, is completing a feasibility study. And it’s the economic feasibility of this nearly $3 billion project that concerns some.

In the middle of one of California's worst droughts, it was a big day for proponents of a big project-the Sites Reservoir.

“If we do this, it's just pluses for everybody in reducing that pressure on our existing supplies up here,” LaMalfa said.

“Unfortunately this reservoir does not exist today,” Garamendi said. “When that other drought comes, usually on a ten year cycle, we want this reservoir in place to provide the water security that California and this region must have.”

The off stream reservoir would be located west of Maxwell along the Glenn-Colusa canal.

“There’s really nothing that's new in terms of we need new construction methods,” Glen-Colusa Irrigation Districts General Manager Thad Bettner said. “[It’s] nothing high tech. It's a very standard type construction...easy to build.”

While it may be easy to build, and water security sounds good, Aqualliance Executive Director Barbara Vlamis has one major concern.

“Cost,” Vlamis said. “Who's going to pay for damns is always an issue. Big infrastructure is very expensive and the benefits can be very small.”

Bettner said funding is likely to come from two sources: Anyone interested in owning the rights to that water, and an $11 billion state water bond ($3 billion could be used towards storage) that will be on the November ballot.

“As I tell everybody, there's this little time in between elections where people actually expect us to get things done,” LaMalfa said. “This would be one of those times.”

“You get the big picture in an election,” Vlamis said. “You know it's going to improve water quality, it's going to improve water reliability. Doesn't that all sound good?”

Bettner said his agency, and other members of the Joint Powers Authority will examine the cost-effectiveness of the Sites reservoir.

Meanwhile, that's what the project's feasibility study aims to do. That should be completed in less than a year.

Construction on the Sites reservoir could start as early as the end of this year.


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