The California Water Commission recently adopted regulations that outline in greater detail the process water storage projects such as Sites Reservoir will have to go through to receive state funding.
The adopted regulations are the first step in implementing the Water Storage Investment Program, which is what the commission will use to fund water storage projects using $2.7 billion in bond revenue generated from Proposition 1.
Jim Watson, general manager of the Sites Joint Powers Authority, said when voters approved the proposition in November 2014 for statewide water storage projects, the water commission was required to prepare regulations on how the state would decide to invest.
"It's a major milestone because it met the deadline imposed in Proposition 1 and maintains the schedule for assigning those funds," he said.
Lewis Bair, general manager of Reclamation District 108, said the commission's deadline to adopt regulations was in January 2017. If the deadline was not met, the application process would've been delayed and essentially reset the clock on when Prop. 1 funding could be allocated.
"The positive side is the schedule will hold now," Bair said. "With these types of projects that are so expansive, time is money, and timing is really important."
Watson said the Water Commission's regulations outlined what water storage projects will need to address in the application process in terms of how they will provide specific public benefits. Those benefits include improving the operations of the state water system, the ecosystem and water quality conditions, and whether or not the project is cost effective.
"It moves the process one step closer to allow these types of projects to provide environmental benefits the state is willing to invest in," Watson said. "We are working toward our application. We now understand the rules on the application and how the commission will evaluate it."
Watson said the next step for Sites will be finishing its application and to conduct the different studies that are required to be submitted along with it.
"We've taken steps to get the studies launched," he said. "We are trying to accelerate the work required so that we will have more information available to submit with the application and to make it a more compelling application."
The deadline for water storage projects to submit applications to the Water Commission is the end of June 2017.
Bair said Sites Reservoir is important because it provides flexibility throughout the Sacramento Valley, as well as the state, and that the project will do wonders in meeting the modern demands for water in California.
"I think this is a big step," Bair said. "I believe Sites will move forward with or without Prop. 1 but I think California is in a better place if it turned it into a water asset. This is a step in the right direction. This type of project is a new concept for the state. I'm very excited every time we advance that concept."
Sites is a proposed reservoir that would be located in Colusa and Glenn counties. According to the project's website, the reservoir would've been able to hold about 500,000 acre-feet of water in 2016 by pumping water out of the Sacramento River for storage.