Sites Reservoir Project: 2022 Year in Review
After another year of unprecedented drought, it’s clear California needs Sites Reservoir to create a more reliable and resilient water supply. The period from 2020 to 2022 was the driest recorded in the last 126 years. While heavy rains from an atmospheric river washed over parts of the state to close out the year, excess stormwater from the Sacramento River will not be captured as it would if Sites were operational. We’ve continued to build momentum this year and are closer to final approval of the project. As we look back on 2022, we have significant milestones to celebrate and more to look forward to in the coming years.
One Step Closer to A Water Right Permit
Sites Reservoir reached a critical milestone in May when the Sites Project Authority submitted its water right application to the State Water Resources Control Board. The State Water Resources Control Board responded to our water right application, an important next step in the project advancement, and we are diligently working through details of the application to stay on schedule for securing a water right permit.
Following robust engagement and public meetings to gather input, the Sites project team updated the Environmental Impact Report (EIR)/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in November 2021. The updated EIR/EIS was available for public comment from November 12, 2021 to January 11, 2022. We expect to release the final environmental documents in Spring 2023.
Continued Federal Investment
This year, Sites Reservoir achieved key funding objectives that showed our federal partners recognize the extensive benefits of this project for California.
Sites was awarded $80 million from the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act), which provides grants for water supply infrastructure, in late December. The project has now received more than $184 million in federal funding through the WIIN Act.
In October, Sites received an additional $30 million in funding allocated from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed in 2021.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invited us to apply for a $2.2 billion low-interest loan through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which would bring the project significantly closer to construction and completion.
Statewide Media Interest and Partnerships
With so much great news to share, there was significant statewide media interest in the project. Highlights of the 2022 media coverage include the Los Angeles Times, ABC 7 Sacramento, and CalMatters, to name a few.
2022 also brought a new partnership with the Southern California Water Coalition that led to enhanced stakeholder engagement throughout the Southland and featured participation in a podcast to discuss how Sites is the future of water storage and so crucial for our whole state. We also developed explainer videos to showcase the status and benefits of the project, which allowed us to reach new audiences.
This year, we’re eager to continue the momentum and progress from 2022, which was a banner year for the project. Each milestone gets us closer to better water resiliency for California’s communities, farms, and environment. We will continue to engage with our stakeholders and member agencies as we move through the next phase of permitting and environmental review. Together, we will build Sites Reservoir to benefit all of California.
For the latest updates and current information, please visit sitesproject.org.
Fritz Durst is a Yolo County farmer and chairman of the Sites Joint Power Authority. Thad Bettner is general manager of the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID).