The state of California is getting set to forge ahead with constructing a huge new reservoir in Colusa County that would be capable of storing enough water to supply three million households, and it just got the green light from the feds.
The Sites Reservoir is something that's been talked about for decades. But now as the state is experiencing what many have called a megadrought, and experts continue to foresee a future of water shortages in this populous state, the new reservoir — the first to be built in decades — is taking a step closer to reality.
As NBC Bay Area reports, the latest development is an announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that signaled its pre-approval for a $2.2 billion federal loan for the project. Combined with $875 million from a voter-approved bond voters from 2014, and a $450 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Sites Reservoir project is now all but funded.
"We’ve definitely turned the corner and we have a nice tailwind at our back,” says Jerry Brown, executive director of the Sites Project Authority and no relation to the former governor, speaking to NBC Bay Area.
Brown added, confidently, "I’m 100% confident this will be built. There’s a lot of fear and distrust and we have to operate in a way that we, you know, secure trust and address the fears. And we’re working really hard to do that."
The site of the reservoir is an old Colusa County town called Sites, which is in a basin in the Antelope Valley straddling Colusa and Glenn counties, west of the town of Maxwell. The town is home to a few remaining residents, who will obviously need to be relocated. But the biggest resistance to the project is expected to come from environmental groups.
Specifically, the Natural Resources Defense Council has already suggested that this project will divert too much water from the Sacramento River, and will harm salmon in the process.
"There will undoubtedly always be some folks who believe the myth that building new dams and reservoirs will be a silver bullet that solves California’s water supply challenges,” says Doug Obegi, a lawyer with the NRDC, in a preview of what's to come for this project.
If it gets through all its approvals, the Sites Reservoir would get up and running, with water pumped over from the Sacramento River for the initial "inundation," by 2030.