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Online extra: Questions and answers about Sites Reservoir

Issue Date: June 14, 2017

Q: Once complete, how would the proposed Sites Reservoir operate? How would water be distributed and moved in and out of the project?

  • The Sites Project Authority plans to be the owner and operate Sites Reservoir cooperatively with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and California Department of Water Resources to improve water supply reliability and, under Proposition 1, provide water for environmental benefits in the Sacramento River, delta and wildlife refuges.
  • Sites Reservoir is an offstream reservoir that would be filled by pumping unregulated Sacramento River flows that occur in the winter and spring, when all other water demands have been met. The reservoir would be filled using three primary points of diversion that would be screened to protect fish and would connect to canals or pipelines from the Sacramento River—two existing canals and one new point of diversion.
  • The water in Sites Reservoir would be distributed in accordance with the "beneficiary pays" principle, based on each year's hydrologic conditions and in compliance with the applicable regulatory obligations and the project's permit conditions. Assuming the state elects to invest in the project under Proposition 1, each year the state's proportionate share of Sites Project water would be managed by state resource managers to provide environmental and water quality benefits. The remainder, which is associated with the water agencies that participated in funding the project's construction, would be delivered to each participant; those agencies are located in the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and Southern California.

Q: What construction is necessary to complete Sites Reservoir?

  • The 1.8 million acre-foot Sites Reservoir would consist of two 300-foot tall dams and nine smaller saddle dams; a regulating forebay connected to each of the two existing irrigation canals; a new diversion and release facility on the Sacramento River; three pump/generating plants and pipelines connecting to Sites Reservoir; and powerlines connecting each of the three pump/generating plants with the state's electric grid. In addition, local roads would need to be rerouted and new roads built to provide access to project facilities.

Q: If Proposition 1 funding becomes available, when might construction begin? When might the project be completed?

  • The anticipated construction duration is from 2022 through 2029, but the start is dependent upon completion of the environmental review process, all the required permits and the real estate/right-of-way process. A high-level schedule is available at

Q: How many agencies have signed the joint-powers agreement, and who are they?

  • The Sites Project Authority is comprised of Sacramento Valley public agencies that are motivated to build local water sustainability in a way that helps the state meet its overall water system needs for both people and the environment. The authority was formed on Aug. 26, 2010, and is governed by a 12-member board of directors representing Sacramento Valley government and water agencies, including: Colusa County, Reclamation District 108, Westside Water District, Glenn County, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, Maxwell Irrigation District, Colusa County Water District, Orland Artois Water District, TC 5 Districts, Placer County Water Agency/City of Roseville and Western Canal Water District.

Q:  U.S. Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, and John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, have sponsored legislation related to Sites. How would this bill aid in the project's construction?

  • Passage of H.R. 1269 has the potential to accelerate federal review and permitting of the project, to enable an earlier completion. The bill also demonstrates congressional support for the value Sites Reservoir can provide—net improvements to the state (and national) economy and to the environment, specifically, the Sacramento River, delta and critical components of the national wildlife refuge system.

Q: What would water from Sites cost, and what is the latest benefit-cost ratio?

  • The cost per acre-foot is dependent upon many factors. The most important is establishing the level of state and/or federal investment and how the share of the water produced by Sites Reservoir would be used to improve the environment. Once the public investment portion has been established and the permit conditions defined, the remainder of the water benefits would be converted into the proportionate share of construction costs that those water agencies participating in the project would need to finance. Benefits facts and figures are available at

(Source: Sites Project Authority)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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