16 May 13 , 2022 VOL . 41 • ISS . 7
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Votes to Fund Sites Reservoir Project
OS ANGELES - The Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Water District ( MWD ), the main water wholesaler in Southern California , voted on April 12 to fund the next phase of planning for the controversial Sites Reservoir with $ 20 million of ratepayer money . If built , Sites Reservoir would be located on the west side of the Sacramento Valley , approximately 10 miles west of Maxwell , Calif ., in Glenn and Colusa Counties . The vote was 54.66 % in favor of the project . The board members voting “ no ” or abstaining were Cordero , Luna , Ortega , Phan , Quinn , Ramos , Sutley Abstain- Fong Sakai , Miller and Smith . The board members voting for Sites were Ackerman , Apodaca , Atwater , Blois , Camacho , DeJesus , Dennstedt , Dick , Erdman , Fellow , Gray , Hawkins , Jung , LeFevre , McCoy , Morris , Peterson , Pressman , Record , Tamaribuchi , Williams and Abdo . The board voted for the project after the Water Planning and Stewardship Committee recommended that the Board “ appropriate $ 20 million and authorize an amendment to the 2019 Reservoir Project Agreement with the Sites Project Authority to allow participation in the Sites Reservoir Project Amendment 3 Workplan .” The General Manager determined that the proposed actions are exempt or otherwise not subject to CEQA ( California Environmental Quality Act ). “ Climate change is dramatically affecting our supplies on the State Water Project ,” said Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil in a statement after the board vote . “ So the question is , how do we reinvest , how do we adapt , how do we replicate the snowpack storage we are losing and build climate resiliency ? It will take new local supplies and groundwater storage , but it will also take new surface storage , both upstream of the Delta and downstream of the Delta .” “ This is a commitment to the planning process , to have Metropolitan at the table during that process , so we can ensure this project is viable for the state , for the environment , and for Metropolitan . We want to make sure everyone ’ s voices are heard in this process . The decision to fund the project ’ s construction will come later ,” Hagekhalil stated . While Sites proponents said the project will have “ multiple benefits ,” Sierra Club California said the project would have “ major negative consequences ” for local communities across Southern California — and would also facilitate the construction of the Delta Tunnel . “ Sierra Club California and environmental justice groups have steadfastly fought against the Sites Reservoir project ,” the group said in a statement . “ The project will facilitate the environmentally destructive Delta Conveyance project ( aka Delta tunnel ), which environmentalists and the public have
consistently opposed for decades ,” “ The Delta tunnel will harm the important biodiversity of the Bay-Delta region , and cost ratepayers up to $ 40 billion . Sites Reservoir is the tunnel ’ s sister project , storing water that will flow through the tunnel . Importantly , neither project will provide a new source of water for the area ,” the group noted . “ For years , the freshwater flowing into the San Francisco Bay-Delta , located near Stockton , has been overdrawn . This has resulted in a loss of habitat , fish , and wildlife . The lack of freshwater also creates increased algal blooms that put nearby communities at risk . The tunnel and Sites Reservoir will only exacerbate these problems ,” the group stated . In response to the vote , Caty Wagner , Sierra Club California SoCal Water Organizer , issued a statement explaining her disappointment with the Board decision : “ We are disappointed that MWD decided to fund the next phase of Sites . This irresponsible decision directly harms Californians and increases Southern California ’ s dependence on the already-strained Bay-Delta . “ We commend the members of the board who listened to the comments of concerned citizens and activists and voted against this project . It ’ s deeply troubling that a majority of the MWD board refuses to value sustainable water management .” We will continue to advocate for more community engagement , especially for affected Tribes , and the importance of local supplies , which will increase our resiliency in the face of climate change , create local jobs , and provide relief to the communities and wildlife of the Delta .” A large number of people from throughout the state made comments opposing the vote during the public comment period of the meeting . Those include Grace Marvin , Tom Williams , Anna Hayes , Conner Everts , Mercedes Macias , Steve Usher , Sydney P , Wes Chuang , Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians Vice Chair Malissa Tayaba , Maura Monagan , Patrick Porgans , Yvonne Martinez Watson , Kasil Willie from Save California Salmon , Denise Cisneros , Lionel Mares , Cherie Ross , Araceli Moreno , Ashley Overhouse of Friends of the River , Charming Evelyn , Deirdre Des Jardins , Samuel Butler , Luis Vazquez , Judith S . Anderson , Bill Niemand , Marilyn Paladin , Karen Jacques , Nancy Havassy , Joyce Summers , Alice Neuhauser , Dani Lindamood , Les Kishler and Penelope LePome . Vice Chair Malissa Tayaba of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians said , “ The ancestral waterways are the lifeblood of the Tribe . We were displaced by colonization , John Sutter , the gold rush and fur trade ... Your decisions regarding Sites Reservoir have a direct impact on the future of the Tribe .” Ashley Overhouse of Friends of the
River stated , “ California already has 1,400 dams and most dams and reservoirs have had devastating impacts on our rivers , native fish and wildlife , and the Tribes , fishing jobs , and communities that depend on their health . Sites is no different .” Kasil Willie , the staff attorney at Save California Salmon , said , “ The state will receive less reliable rainfall & this is our new normal . This project won ’ t create more water to be used . It doesn ’ t make sense to invest money when it ’ s dependent on uncertain factors . 150 Tribal sites are located in the area of impact .” Maura Monagan of the LA Waterkeeper stated , “ We need to do everything we can to invest in local smart water supplies . We need to focus on multi-benefit programs , groundwater remediation and stormwater capture . Sites Reservoir and Delta Tunnel are irresponsible .” Patrick Porgans of Planetary Solutionaries said , “ I want to compliment MWD for reducing their water use . 1 million acres of almonds require 3x more # water than MWD and 80 % of those # almonds are exported . The board needs to vote No on Sites ; it ’ s a rebranded version of off-stream storage .” Finally , in a letter submitted to the Board , Jim Brobeck , water policy analyst at Aqualliance , wrote , “ I have been tracking the boondoggle know as Sites Reservoir for nearly 2 decades . This project is a sinkhole for taxpayer money as well as private funding in spite of the economic and environmental unfeasibility including expensive planning , construction and operation . The so-called ‘ right sizing ” of the redesigned reservoir expects to extract 1.3 million acre feet of water from the Sacramento River ecosystem but yield less than 25 % of
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that amount back into the river . Even this amount may be reduced as the planning contractors continue to attempt environmental mitigation during the endless planning phase .” ” I encourage the board to review DEIR-EIS comments on heavy metal contaminants identified in the Sites footprint and source water by Retired DWR Chief of Water Quality for the Northern District , Jerry Boles attached to this emailed comment . He summarized his detailed analysis thusly : “ The high concentrations of metals likely to occur in the proposed reservoir will impact most , if not all , beneficial uses of the proposed project , including agricultural supply , wildlife and fisheries , and drinking water supplies for communities that divert water from the Sacramento River , making the project potentially infeasible .” The vote took place the same day that the Pacific Institute in Oakland released groundbreaking new research quantifying “ dramatic opportunities for innovative urban water strategies to provide drought relief and longer-term water resilience .” “ The Untapped Potential of California ’ s Urban Water Supply : Water Efficiency , Water Reuse , and Stormwater Capture ” reveals the state could reduce urban water use by 30 % -48 % through investments in water efficiency measures . “ The analysis also highlights the potential to boost local water supplies by more than tripling municipal water reuse and significantly increasing stormwater capture across the state . While the findings are specific to California , they can inform water resilience strategies across the United States and beyond ,” the Institute reported .
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