It’s been years of putting together the proper documentation and studies required by the process, but the team pushing for the proposed Sites Reservoir is hoping that work pays off as they go to submit an application for $1.6 billion in funding from the state.

Water quality, supply and infrastructure improvement projects around the state had until Monday to submit applications in hopes of getting a portion of the more than $7 billion in Proposition 1 funding. For hopeful water storage projects like Sites, there is $2.7 billion up for grabs.

“We are in the thick of finalizing our proposal to be submitted,” Jim Watson, general manager of the Sites Project Authority, said on Thursday.

Sites Reservoir would provide approximately 1.8 million acre-feet of off-stream water storage located in both Colusa and Glenn counties. Pumping water from the Sacramento River during months when water elevation is at its highest, proponents of the project say it would provide a reliable water supply and flood protection for local and state agencies, while also making a water source available for groundwater recharge and to meet seasonal fish flow requirements in the Sacramento River and Delta.

Watson said there are at least a dozen projects competing for the funds designated for storage projects, dams and reservoirs. The groups spearheading the efforts for each of those projects consider themselves in a competitive position for the money, he said.

“All of the projects provide different benefits at different locations, so it will be interesting to see what the (California) Water Commission decides as to where there is the greatest need,” Watson said.

Once applications are in, the commission will have until late December or early January to officially score each submission, Watson said, then it will finalize scoring by next summer.

“They want to make the initial funding decisions by June of next year,” he said.

The authority’s submittal for $1.6 billion of the Prop 1 funding would provide the state with 40 percent of the water stored in the reservoir – more than 700,000 acre-feet of water – if the request is granted in full by the commission.

“That water would be put in storage and could be managed by resources agencies to achieve the benefits those agencies are looking for, in terms of helping salmon, smelt and the Pacific Flyway,” Watson said. “If the state comes in at less than 40 percent, we have a waiting list of water agencies wanting to participate. So, we have a strong backing to keep working on the project.”

Next steps

Even if a project gets approved for Proposition 1 funding by the commission, it will still need to complete environmental documents and the permitting process before the money is divvied out.

“Once all those permits are acquired, then the commission will give funds out for the final design and construction of the project,” Watson said. “They are looking for a shovel-ready project.”

The authority is waiting for the state to define what studies will be required moving forward. Once the state provides comments on the environmental documents submitted for Sites, Watson said the authority will have a better understanding of what is still needed.

“The next step is to essentially regroup and continue working on operations of the project. Once we submit we will start working on what’s going to be needed to advance our environmental documents and permitting. We are not going to be going on holiday just because we’ve submitted by the deadline. We are going to do what we can to push this project forward,” Watson said.

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