Sites Project Authority to Revise and Recirculate EIR

The Sites Project Authority (Authority) has announced it will revise and recirculate its environmental document for the Sites Reservoir project.

The plan was to build the largest new reservoir in California in more than 40 years to supply water to homes, businesses and Central Valley farmers. Well, that plan is now being scaled back.

The Authority has conducted what it calls a “Value Planning effort”. This process resulted in a project that includes facilities and operations that are different than originally proposed in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) released for public review in 2017.

Due to these changes, the Authority as the California Environmental Quality Act lead agency will revise and recirculate its Draft EIR and work with landowners, tribes, stakeholders, non-governmental organizations, and local communities to conduct a collaborative environmental review process. The Authority will also coordinate with the Bureau of Reclamation to confirm the appropriate approach to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.

“The Value Planning process was responsive to input from our investors, state and federal agencies,
non-governmental organizations, elected officials, landowners and local communities. By optimizing our plans for Sites Reservoir, we can design a water storage project that meets the needs of our participants and the environment today and in the future.” said Fritz Durst, chairman of the Sites Project Authority.

Sites Reservoir proposed construction site is 10 miles west of Maxwell in rural Glenn and Colusa counties and would be an off-stream storage facility that captures and stores stormwater flows in the Sacramento River.

The revised plan reduces the price tag for the project from more than $5 billion to $3 billion, the reservoir’s size is reduced from 1.8 million acre feet to 1.5 million acre feet and the Authority plans to use existing canals instead of building a proposed 18-mile pipeline.

“By creating a resilient and reliable water supply for people and the environment during dry periods,
Sites Reservoir provides a unique benefit that closely aligns with Governor Newsom’s Water Resiliency Plan,” said Jerry Brown, executive director for the Sites Project Authority.

Revisions to the EIR are underway. A revised and recirculated EIR is expected to be released for public review in Summer 2021. The Authority is coordinating with the Bureau of Reclamation on how best to move forward with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with the goal of remaining a joint EIR/EIS to facilitate the public review process.

The changes will delay the start of construction to at least 2023.

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