USDA Announces $449 Million Investment in California Reservoir Project and Water Supply

By on November 29, 2018

It was a good news, bad news day on Tuesday for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Although it was a sobering visit to fire-ravaged devastation in what remains of the town of Paradise, decimated by the Camp Fire, Secretary Perdue also announced a $449 million loan for a new California reservoir project in the farming community of Maxwell in Colusa County.

The project – the Maxwell Water Intertie (MWI) – would include the construction of 3.5 miles of 12-foot diameter pipeline, along with a new pump station, that will be used to pump water from the existing Glenn Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) system to the existing Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority’s (TCCA) Funks Reservoir. These facilities would increase water management flexibility and improve water supply resiliency for participants during dry years and directly increase the efficiency and reliability of water management in the western Sacramento Valley.

“Modern and reliable water infrastructure is the backbone to prosperity in the Sacramento Valley and across our nation. Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to being an ally to innovative leaders taking action to rebuild rural infrastructure in California and beyond, which is why we are investing in projects like the Maxwell Water Intertie,” said Secretary Perdue. “By working in a collaborative fashion with our state and local partners, we can balance the needs of everyone involved and ensure that the productivity of water in the Sacramento Valley is around for generations of farmers and ranchers to come.”

In January, Secretary Perdue presented the findings of Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force. The findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of infrastructure opportunities that exist in rural America. President Donald J. Trump established the task force in January 2017 to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities.

Secretaries Perdue and Zinke were joined by Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Rickey “R.D.” James and Sites Project Authority General Manager Jim Watson for the announcement of the MWI. Also on hand were congressional members Doug LaMalfa (R-1st District-Richvale), David Valadao (R-21st District-Hanford) and Jeff Denham (R-10th District-Hawthorne) and Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher (3rd District-Yuba City).

“Every westerner knows the saying ‘whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting,’ but President Trump, Secretary Perdue and I are trying to make that obsolete. We all share a commitment to storing and delivering water for farmers, families and commercial users in California,” said Secretary Zinke. “In order to meet the demands of the future, we need to increase our storage capacity and bring our water infrastructure in to the 21st century. Large-scale water infrastructure projects, like the Maxwell Water Intertie and the Sites Reservoir projects which the Department partners on, will directly benefit from the nearly half-billion dollars that Secretary Perdue is making available.”

The Maxwell Water Intertie will also feature exchanges of water from Funks Reservoir to the GCID system will occur through the new pipeline by gravity flow in the reverse direction. The project also includes the construction of a new 1,200-acre-foot Terminal Regulating Reservoir (TRR) to be constructed adjacent to the GCID Main Canal that will help to regulate flows in the GCID main canal and support the operation of the MWI facilities.

Although the construction of the MWI has been hailed by many the $449 million loan will need to be repaid. According to the Record Searchlight newspaper, the loan will need to be paid off in 40 years at 3.875 percent interest. Sites Project Authority Watson has indicated that the money to repay the loan will come from rural and urban water users.

“The Maxwell Water Intertie will increase the efficiency and reliability of water management in the western Sacramento Valley by adding to and improving existing water infrastructure to facilitate greater flexibility in water conveyance, which would increase the drought resistance of rural communities and help to support our region’s agricultural economy.” said Jim Watson.

The MWI is estimated for completion by 2024. Projections for the Sites Reservoir’s completion could be by 2030.