Ag Today May 8, 2018

Sites Reservoir official: Commission ‘undervalues’ project’s benefits

Posted: Monday, May 7, 2018 8:17 pm – Appeal-Democrat

One billion dollars isn’t enough, Sites Reservoir supporters say.

Despite being eligible for $1 billion in Proposition 1 funds from the state, a top official with the group spearheading Sites Reservoir said the state is failing to see the big picture in terms of the benefits the project would provide California, namely its endangered salmon.

“Although the Sites Project Authority appreciates the increase in eligible state funding, we remain firm in our belief that the state is missing a significant opportunity to flexibly manage water for the benefit of endangered salmon,” said Fritz Durst, chairman of the Sites Project Authority, in a press release. “We are disappointed that the process was not more collaborative and resulted in an undervaluing of the benefits Sites provides to struggling salmon populations.”

The California Water Commission – tasked with divvying up $2.7 billion in available Proposition 1 funds to eligible water storage projects – held a series of public meetings last week with officials from the 11 projects vying for the available funds. Following the meetings, the commission announced that it had revised its public benefit scores for the projects.

The commission announced that Sites Reservoir was eligible to receive an additional $75 million based on the project’s public benefit score, up from an April estimate of $933.3 million.

However, that $1 billion in eligible funding is still well short of what Sites officials were hoping for. In their initial application, Sites asked for $1.6 billion of the available Prop. 1 funding. In return for that investment, Sites official said they would provide the state with 40 percent of the water stored in the reservoir – more than 700,000 acre-feet of water.

“We appreciate the effort by Commissioners to evaluate the public benefits Proposition 1 applicants provide to the State of California. We will continue working with the Commission and staff to finalize the scoring process and secure early funding later this summer to continue to advance this critical water storage project,” Fritz said in a press release.

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