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Sites Authority has work to do in its pitch for Prop. 1 funding

February 7, 2018 GMT

The initial scoring is out, and those pushing for Sites Reservoir have some work to do if they expect to receive a chunk of the $2.7 billion in available Proposition 1 funding for water storage projects.

The California Water Commission is responsible for determining the public benefits of each of the projects competing for funding. Using a scoring system, the commission is essentially looking at whether or not every dollar invested on a particular project will come back to the state in the form of a public benefit of equal value.

Some projects were determined to have no public benefits. Others had some form of public benefit, but not enough to justify funding just yet.

“Now that we have received staff’s initial technical review and results, we will work with the Water Commission to gain a better understanding of the methodologies and criteria used to score our project and adjust accordingly,” said Jim Watson, general manager for the Sites Project Authority, in a press release.

Sites received an initial public benefit score of 0.4 earlier this month, after it received credit for wildlife refuge improvements, flood control and recreation. However, the commission requested the Sites Project Authority provide more information before a score could be given for the project’s environmental benefits for salmon and delta smelt.

“The Sites Project Authority is confident that the project provides unique environmental benefits that will improve conditions for salmon and delta smelt,” said Fritz Durst, chairperson for the authority, in the press release. “We are looking forward to a serious commitment from the state to benefit the stressed environmental resources in the Sacramento Valley watershed.”

Each project now has an opportunity to appeal the commission’s initial scoring, which is what the authority plans on doing.

“Given some of the unique aspects of our proposal, the Sites Project Authority had planned to use the appeal process to help clarify benefits, such as dedicating 710,000 acre-feet of the usable storage capacity in the reservoir for the state to manage over the 100-year plus expected life of the reservoir,” Watson said in a press release. “For comparison, that’s three-fourths of the total storage capacity of Folsom Reservoir to be used solely for environmental benefits.”

The authority is planning on submitting its appeal on Feb. 23. The commission is expected to release final public benefit scores sometime this summer.

Sites is one of 11 projects vying for the available Prop. 1 funding. Proposition 1 was approved by voters in 2014 and made available $7.12 billion for water supply infrastructure projects across the state, including a separate chunk for construction of water storage infrastructure.

The public benefit score is only one-third of an applicant’s overall score, meaning the commission will take other factors into consideration when determining funding.

Still, authority members are hoping they can convince the commission to reconsider its initial score.

“Although the Water Commission staff’s initial evaluation substantially undervalues the project, we think there is a great opportunity moving forward for an updated analysis to allow the state to make substantial investments in the environmental benefits the project can provide,” Durst said in the press release.

Sites Reservoir is a proposed off-stream reservoir that would be in both Glenn and Colusa counties and would pump water from the Sacramento River during winter months for storage. The reservoir would have the capacity to store 1.8 million acre-feet of water and is estimated to cost about $5.2 billion to construct.