Ag Today September 30, 2016

Governor signs Gallagher’s water storage bill

Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2016 4:41 pm

By Jake Abbott/

Gov. Jerry Brown this week signed a bill by Assemblyman James Gallagher to expedite construction of water storage projects, such as the proposed Sites Reservoir in Colusa and Glenn counties.

The new law will allow water storage construction projects to utilize alternative delivery methods for procurement.

“It’s great. It’s something we worked with a lot of different stakeholders on, as well as worked across the aisle on,” Gallagher said. “It’s nice to see something that I think is going to be really helpful with building water storage.”

Before the new law was passed, water storage projects were required to use a design-bid-build method, which split the process into two phases requiring an agency to complete the designs before sending it out to bid.

The bill Gallagher co-authored, AB 2551, was essentially meant to simplify the process and provide agencies with different options to complete construction more quickly. The new options, which have been used in other public works projects, include “design-build,” “construction manager at risk” and “design-build-operate.”

“It will help with the timelines and ultimately save taxpayers money on a project,” Gallagher said. “That was the concept behind it. Ultimately, this legislation will help us get a project likes Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat in Fresno off the ground much faster.”

The design-build method allows a local entity to procure both design and construction services from a single company.

The construction manager at risk method allows a local entity to choose a construction manager to provide pre-construction services during design, who later becomes the general contractor during the construction process.


Sites Reservoir

Gallagher said potential water storage projects, primarily Sites, were the main driving force in pushing this bill forward.

“It started out when I went to the Sites JPA (Joint Powers Authority) — Jim Watson and Kim Dolbow Vann, and I asked them about something that would be helpful with ultimately building Sites Reservoir,” Gallagher said. “They said if they had some flexibility like with other public works projects in how they do procurement, it would save them time and money. That’s where it started and that’s really the focus of it.”

Sites Reservoir would have the capacity to store 1.3 million acre-feet of water. Gallagher said the off-stream project would provide the state some flexibility and help meet the state’s water demands.

If built, Sites Reservoir would store pumped water from the Sacramento River during winter months that would otherwise travel to the Bay Area and eventually to the Pacific Ocean.

“We would have that water for all of the different needs in California, whether it’s farms, towns like East Porterville who went with no potable water, small towns that run into bad situations with no running water,” Gallagher said. “It would help with issues of regulating temperatures for fish because we can store more cold water up in Shasta and then use water out of Sites to meet people’s needs for both urban and farming needs.”

Gallagher said funding is the main obstacle that must be navigated in order to start the project. He said recent draft regulations released by the state’s Water Commission and potential funding from Proposition 1 would get the ball rolling. Best case scenario, the project would begin construction in five to seven years.

“We’ve heard a lot of positive things out of the people (at the state level) that are looking at these projects,” Gallagher said. “(Sites JPA) is organized, they have their ducks in a row and they have a multi-benefit project. We aren’t taking anything for granted. We will continue to work really hard but I think things look really good.”