Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla (both D-Calif.) today released the following statements after the Environmental Protection Agency invited sponsors of the proposed Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley to apply for a $2.2 billion loan through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).
“We can all see with our own eyes that climate change is making droughts much worse for California. We must take action,” Senator Feinstein said. “For decades I’ve worked to fund projects that store more water from the wet years to use during the dry years as part of a comprehensive drought mitigation program that includes conservation, water recycling, desalination and water use efficiency. I’m pleased that California is finally on the verge of constructing several major storage projects. Sites Reservoir is the largest and will provide the most significant benefits for our water system. This loan is a critical step in getting this dam built.”
“The climate crisis is exacerbating California’s drought conditions, which threatens clean water for our communities, economy and environment,” said Senator Padilla. “Fortunately, Congress and the federal government are stepping up to help California through Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans to mitigate some of the impacts of this megadrought. Building the Sites Reservoir would not only help California provide enough water for millions of Californians, it would also help prevent runoff water from being wasted. This is a critical piece of our diversified water strategy to improve our resiliency to climate change.”
As the chair of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Feinstein has obtained $117 million in federal grant funding for Sites Reservoir over the last two decades and urged the federal government to support its request for a WIFIA loan.
In 2016, Senator Feinstein authored major drought relief legislation that authorized up to 25 percent federal funding for state-led storage projects like Sites Reservoir. This legislation, which was included in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, enables the federal government to be a partner in constructing Sites Reservoir at an estimated cost of $4 billion. California has already committed $816 million for the project.
Sites Reservoir, which is projected to be completed by 2030, would provide an average of 230,000 acre-feet of water supply per year, or enough water for approximately 2 million people. A loan through the WIFIA program could reduce the repayment cost by as much as 10 percent for participants, making it more affordable for cities, farms and resource managers to obtain water.
California has the most variable precipitation in the nation, and climate experts project that the state’s precipitation will become increasingly concentrated into a few major atmospheric rivers, resulting in longer and more severe droughts in between.
Sites Reservoir could store up to 1.5 million acre-feet of the runoff from those few major storms to provide additional water supply during dry years to cities, counties and water and irrigation districts throughout California. The environment would benefit as well, receiving as much as 40 percent of the reservoir’s water supply.
When operated in conjunction with Lake Shasta, Sites Reservoir would provide more cold water to help the endangered winter-run Chinook salmon spawn and rear during the hot summer months. Sites Reservoir is an off-stream water storage facility that does not dam a major river system and would not block fish migration or spawning.