Federal loan and bonds boost California water project

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The United States Environmental Protection Agency has formally invited the Site Reservoir Authority to apply for a $2.2 billion loan, boosting the long-delayed massive storage project in Northern California.

The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan announcement last week comes on top of news from the California Department of Water Resources on Wednesday that the project would receive an additional $59 million for a total of $875 million in funding. a statewide water bond approved in 2014.

The venues project authority expects to receive an additional $600 million from other federal sources and would then issue $600 million in revenue bonds to cover the $4.4 billion cost of the project, Jerry said. Brown, executive director, unrelated to the former governor.

“I am thrilled that California is finally on the verge of building several major storage projects,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said in a statement. “Sites Reservoir is the largest and will provide the most significant benefits to our water system. This loan is a crucial step in the construction of this dam.

“I am thrilled that California is finally on the verge of building several major storage projects,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said in a statement.

Bloomberg News

The Sites Reservoir Project was first proposed in the mid-1980s as the second stage of the State Water Project to follow the Oroville Dam, California Aqueduct, and hydroelectric plants and associated pumping stations. The SWP collects water from Northern California rivers and redistributes it to urban areas in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, and Central Valley farms through a network of aqueducts, pump stations, and of power plants.

The six-year drought that began in 2011 reinforced the need for the Sites Reservoir project.

Sites, a small community in Colusa County in northern California, is surrounded by hills and located in a basin of grassland used primarily for cattle grazing. The proposed reservoir, which would flood the basin, did not elicit opposition from herders.

He was pushed back by the Natural Defense Resources Council, an environmental advocacy group based in Santa Monica, Calif., who argued that the project would take too much water from the Sacramento River, harming salmon and fish. other fish.

The project was scaled back after receiving widespread negative feedback in 2017, to address environmental concerns, Brown said. It would now have the capacity to store 1.3 to 1.5 million acre-feet of water compared to the 1.8 million acre-feet originally proposed. An intake pipe that passed through prime agricultural and wildlife areas was removed, as was a $1 billion pump to create energy storage. Water would be drawn from existing canals, rather than being diverted directly from the Sacramento River, Brown said.

“There are about 180 miles of canals in the area, and only about 12 miles of those are new because of the project,” Brown said. “That’s a big reason why it’s such a wonderful place, because of all the infrastructure that’s there.”

It is truly unique that this project has a group of 23 water agencies from across the state that pool their resources to guarantee the WIFIA loan and incur debts under the joint powers authority that governs the project, a he declared.

Just as the project has been dusted under the six-year drought of the past decade, the current drought should provide some momentum.

Had the project been completed sooner, it could have stored water from the heavy rains of 2017 and 2019, which would have helped the state during the current drought. With the environmental impact report to be completed in two years and other water permits required, Brown does not expect to begin construction until 2024 and have it operational until 2030. It is therefore unlikely that this helps with short-term pain relief. of the current drought affecting California and much of the West.

But Senator Alex Padilla, who like Feinstein supports the project, called it “an essential part of our diverse water strategy to improve our resilience to climate change” in a statement. He said the reservoir would help California provide enough water for millions of people and prevent runoff from being wasted.

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