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Interior Announces $137 Million for California Dam Projects

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The $1.1 billion raising of the B.F. Sisk Dam at San Luis Reservoir will yield 130,000 acre-feet of new storage. (Shutterstock)
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While many environmentalists oppose the construction and expansion of dams, the Biden Administration believes in the value of above-ground water storage.

Deb Haaland portrait

“Through the investments we are announcing today, we will advance water storage and conveyance supporting local water management agencies, farmers, families, and wildlife.” — Interior Secretary Dab Haaland

The Department of Interior on Monday announced $210 million in funding for water storage and conveyance projects in the western United States.

Included is $137 million for three California projects:

  • $25 million to raise the B.F. Sisk Dam and expand San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, resulting in 130,000 acre-feet of new capacity.
  • $30 million for the proposed Sites Reservoir west of Colusa in Sacramento County.
  • $82 million for the second phase of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion in Contra Costa County.

“In the wake of severe drought across the West, the Department is putting funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to work to expand access to clean, reliable water and mitigate the impacts of this crisis,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a news release.

“Water is essential to every community – for feeding families, growing crops, powering agricultural businesses, and sustaining wildlife and our environment. Through the investments we are announcing today, we will advance water storage and conveyance supporting local water management agencies, farmers, families, and wildlife.”

Costa Thanks Biden Administration

“This investment, along with the ongoing Friant Kern-Canal construction already underway, shows that we can and will improve our water system to better sustain future droughts due to climate change,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno).

“I thank the Biden Administration for incorporating my input to fund San Joaquin Valley water projects in its Bipartisan Infrastructure Law spending plan.”

Federico Barajas, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, said that the investment in the Sisk dam project “is an important tool for increasing our resilience to changing rainfall and snowpack patterns.

““During the last 10 years, the communities and ecosystems that rely on the water supplied by our member agencies have experienced water whiplash — two of the driest three-year periods in California’s history and two of its wettest years. It is clear that we must store water when it’s available for use in the drier periods we know will come.”

San Luis Project

Work started in June on raising the B.F. Sisk Dam by 10 feet to reduce the risk of the massive earthen structure collapsing in a major earthquake. The reservoir’s current capacity is about 2 million acre-feet.

The federal project is expected to cost $1.1 billion and take nine years — even with crews working 24 hours a day.

Sites Project

The rationale for this reservoir is to capture water from major storms and save it for drought years. Sites is expected to supply farms, businesses, and cities with water when other sources are low.

In March of this year, Rep. John Garamendi announced that the EPA had committed to providing $2.2 billion in additional federal financing for the off-stream project. The price tag for Sites, which would store 1.5 million acre-feet of water is estimated at nearly $4 billion.

Los Vaqueros Project

When completed, this off-stream reservoir would add 110,000 acre-feet of storage, taking its capacity to 275,000 acre-feet.

Other Funded Projects

Here is a look at the three other projects in the west receiving federal funding, as announced on Monday:

Colorado:

  • Arkansas Valley Conduit: $60 million to continue the facilitation of supplying a safe, long-term water supply to an estimated 50,000 people in 40 rural communities along the Arkansas River. Once complete the project will replace current groundwater sources contaminated with radionuclides and help communities comply with EPA drinking water regulations through more than 230 miles of pipelines designed to deliver up to about 7,500 acre-feet per year from Pueblo Reservoir.

Montana:

  • Dry Redwater Regional Water System Feasibility Study: $3 million to provide the authorized federal cost-share for finishing the study.

Washington:

  • Cle Elum Pool Raise: $5 million to increase the reservoir’s capacity by 14,600 acre-feet to benefit instream flows for fish.

 

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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