On behalf of the Chamber’s Water Resources Team and our partner, the Northern California Water Resources Association, I had the pleasure of testifying before the California State Water Commission last week on Sites Reservoir. Our ask is that the state invest in the reservoir through Proposition 1 dollars. If we are successful in securing state investment in Sites, this could result in up to half of the investment priority of our Water Resources Team. Sites Reservoir is approximately double the size of Folsom Reservoir, and could dramatically reduce the need to drain Folsom to low levels every year to alleviate Delta concerns.
The Sites Reservoir could be used for environmental benefits in the Delta which would relieve pressure on Folsom Lake and the Lower American River and significantly reduce the need to drain Folsom to the dangerously low levels we have seen in recent years. This would provide our region significantly more local control over the American River system to balance lower American environmental benefits with flood control and water supply reliability, while also creating more water supplies for delta exporters. This is a combination of regional and state benefits that any investment of Proposition 1 water storage dollars below the delta would not provide. Our region’s water supply reliability plan is a federally-recognized regional groundwater bank. Working together with Sites, a regional water bank would allow us to store water when it’s raining and river levels are high like today, and use that water in dry times for our region, the environment, and even bank water for delta exporters, thus increasing water supplies for the entire state.
If Sites were in place today, the California Department of Water Resources estimates we would have been able to capture and store 585,000-acre feet of water through January 17, 2017. The project is “off-stream,” which means it has significantly less environmental impacts than a traditional river dam and does enjoy bipartisan support as part of our comprehensive regional solution.