New Dams?

Could be, as this article from Mercury News reports.

An excerpt.

During the drought, Californians often asked why the state wasn’t building more reservoirs. On Tuesday, the state finally began taking a major step toward that goal, unveiling a list of 12 huge new water projects — from massive new dams in the north to expanded groundwater banks in the south — that will compete for $2.7 billion in state bond funding for new water storage projects.

The money comes from Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion water bond overwhelmingly passed by voters in November 2014 during the depths of the state’s historic 2011-2016 drought.

Monday was the deadline for water agencies to submit applications for storage projects to the California Water Commission, an agency in Sacramento run by a nine-member board appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The commission will decide by June 2018 which projects receive bond funding, as well as how much, if any, each will receive, after rating them on their public benefits.

“We’re excited about the projects that have applied,” said Chris Orrock, a spokesman for the commission. “They are providing benefits to the people of California, and that’s what this program is aimed at funding.”

As expected, there is more demand than money. All 12 projects would cost roughly $13.1 billion to construct — five times as much money as is available under the bond. That means some won’t get built, and others will need to find the bulk of their funding from federal or local sources — which could include raising water rates or taxes, which local voters may or may not approve.

The list of applicants includes many ideas that have been around for years. Among them:

  • Sites Reservoir: A proposed $5 billion reservoir in Colusa County, roughly 100 miles north of Napa, the reservoir would be built “off stream” in a valley and would divert water from the Sacramento River, holding 1.8 million acre feet. That’s enough water for the needs of 9 million people a year. It would rank Sites as the seventh largest reservoir in the state, roughly the size of San Luis between Gilroy and Los Banos.
  • Los Vaqueros: The Contra Costa Water District is proposing to raise the earthen dam at Los Vaqueros reservoir by 55 feet, increasing the reservoir’s storage capacity from 160,000 acre feet to 275,000-acre feet, enough water to meet the annual needs of 1.4 million people. The $914 million project has a dozen Bay Area partners that would put up some of the money and receive some of the water as drought insurance. Among them are the Santa Clara Valley Water District, East Bay Municipal Utility District and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The project was endorsed Monday by a coalition of six prominent environmental groups — including the Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society and Planning and Conservation League — because some of the water would go to Central Valley wetland refuges for ducks, geese and other wildlife, in addition to people and farms.
  • Pacheco Pass: The Santa Clara Valley Water District is hoping to build a new reservoir in southern Santa Clara County near Pacheco Pass, along with a dam up to 300 feet high. The reservoir, which would cost roughly $900 million, would hold 130,000 acre-feet of water — enough to meet the water needs of 650,000 people for a year. The project would replace an existing small reservoir of 6,000 acre-feet that is used to recharge farmers’ groundwater.
  • Temperance Flat: The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has proposed building a 665-foot-high dam on the San Joaquin River in the Sierra foothills in Fresno County. The $3 billion project, which would construct the second-tallest dam in California, behind Oroville Dam, would create a reservoir of 1.3 million acre-feet, enough water for 6.5 million people a year.
  • Semitropic: The groundwater district near Bakersfield, which stores water for agencies from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, has proposed an expansion.
  • Kern Fan: The Irvine Ranch Water District in Irvine, which serves 380,000 residents of Orange County, is proposing to build a $171 million groundwater storage project at the south end of the Kern River.
  • San Diego: The city of San Diego, which wants to produce one-third of its water by 2035 from recycled wastewater, is planning a $1.2 billion project to purify it and deliver it to Miramar Reservoir.
  • Centennial Reservoir: The Nevada Irrigation District in Grass Valley is proposing building a 275-foot-tall dam and 110,000 acre-foot reservoir on the Bear River near Colfax in Placer County.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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