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Sites Reservoir Report, August 3, 2023

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By Rob Kunde

The proposed Sites Reservoir location is in a valley about 70-miles north of Sacramento and 10-miles west of Interstate Five. This off stream storage facility will hold 1.5 million a/f. In comparison that is three times bigger than Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River. This water will come from excess flows on the Sacramento River above and beyond the amount needed for heath and human safety, environmental and Delta habitat needs during high flow snowmelt times. This stored water would be available to subscribers/investors and the State Water Project and Central Valley Project use. It will cost about $4 billion to build and complete for operations. We thought it might be interesting to take a quick look at how things are going. Many thanks to Rob Kunde for sharing this information – Editor’s note.

California Infrastructure Streamlining Legislation

On June 5, the Sites Project Authority and Reservoir Project Committee voted to approve the following with respect to the Governor’s proposals for infrastructure streamlining:

  1. Communicate general support for the Governor’s Executive Order and Legislative Permit

Reform Package; and

  1. Direct staff to actively advocate on behalf of the three legislative proposals of direct benefit to the Project: CEQA Administrative Record Reforms, CEQA Judicial Streamlining, and Reclassification of Fully Protected Species.

On July 5th after a final vote by the California Senate, the Legislature approved the Governor’s infrastructure streamlining package to accelerate clean energy and infrastructure projects and the Governor signed SB147 (allowing permitted take of Swainson’s Hawk and other fully protected species) and SB149 (accelerating judicial review of CEQA litigation) on July 10th. The Sites Reservoir Project remained an eligible project.

Sites Reservoir – Water Right Application

The State Water Resources Control Board’s 60-day period for formal public protests to the Sites water right application was to end on August 1st. However, the State Board extended the deadline for protests to August 31st. On its schedule, Sites estimates 18 months (from June 2) will be needed for issuance of the Water Right permit. Sites Participants consider this a pre-condition to entering into Sites Benefits and Obligations Contracts to fund and receive benefits from the Project.

Sites Reservoir – Joint Meeting of Sites Project Authority (SPA) and Reservoir Project Committee (RPC)

At its June 16, 2023 meeting, the SPA and/or RPC took the following actions.

  1. Approved the Consent Agenda, including:
  2. approval of May 19 and June 5, 2023 Joint Meeting Minutes, Treasurer’s Report,

and Payment of Claims; and

  1. authorizing the Executive Director to enter into a new Memorandum of

Agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation that outlines roles and responsibilities along with cost sharing for the remainder of Phase 2 and 3 of the Project.

  1. Authorized staff to start the process of preparing a substantially final Benefits and Obligations Contract, Sites Operations Plan, and Governance Documents, and substantially final WIFIA loan documents, by mid-2024. A draft B&O Contract, based on the General Principles and Preliminary Terms, will be provided later in June, and Workshops for Participant feedback will be scheduled in July.
  2. Authorized the Executive Director to enter into two contracts for cultural monitoring of geotechnical field work with the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians and the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians.

The SPA and RPC received briefings as follows:

  1. The contents of the proposed Final Environmental Impact Statement/ Environmental Impact Report on water quality (temperature and mercury) and cultural tribal resources as addressed under AB52 legal requirements for continuing consultation.Lidco Inc.
  2. Updated information on the Project’s process to obtain federal Biological Opinions.
  3. Updated information on the Project’s schedule subject to further input and refinement

which estimates:

  1. substantial Project completion and initiation of operations in Q4 2032;
  2. extending the current Phase 2 to mid/late 2025 due to delays in the water rights permit; this will require collection of the 2023 uncalled $40 per acre-foot of subscription; and
  3. Investor commitment via the B&O Contract in early 2025; staff are planning for the current Work Plan update to stretch resources through late 2025.
  4. A review of principles establishing guidelines for Sites’ use of the Lower Colusa Basin Drain System; the use of the Drain is preferred for conveyance of water for South of Delta and environmental purposes.
  5. A review of the work product of the Governance Ad Hoc Joint Committee to address future Project governance through design, construction and operation. Provisions regarding governance are to be included in the Benefits and Obligations Contract to provide assurances to Project Participants. The Retired Annuitant serves on the Committee.

The Executive Director reported as follows:

  1. Sites staff and directors provided an on-site briefing on the Project to U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton; she expressed strong support for the Project including doing their best not to delay the Project schedule. The next joint Sites Project Authority/Reservoir Project Committee Meeting will be July 16, 2023.

Other Sites Activities

The Retired Annuitant attended nine Sites meetings/activities during the month. He chaired the Operations and Engineering Work Group meeting of June 7th. He participated in preparations to brief the State Water Contractors on the Sites Project. He emailed the following to District Investors: (a) In Sites newsletter regarding the Sites water right application, (b) the May 2023 Sites portion of the Engineer-Manager’s Report, and (c) an ACWA News article on the Sites Project.


The Retired Annuitant attended the following Sites meetings during the month.

June 09 Sites Reservoir – Budget and Finance Committee

June 07 Sites Reservoir – Coordination Committee

June 07 Sites Reservoir – Environmental Planning and Permitting Work Group

June 05 Sites Reservoir – Governance Ad Hoc Joint Committee

June 01 Sites Reservoir – Operations and Engineering Planning Call

June 07 Sites Reservoir – Operations and Engineering Work Group

June 16 Sites Reservoir – Reservoir Project Committee / Sites Project Authority Joint

Board of Directors

June 26 Sites Reservoir – State Water Contractor Briefing – Planning

June 28 Sites Reservoir – State Water Contractor Briefing

The above report was written by Retired Annuitant Robert Kunde and presented to the Wheeler Ridge Maricopa Water Storage District’s board of directors. Kunde is the past General Manager of WRWSD.

Most of you may well know what an annuitant is. I did not. An annuitant is someone who receives an annuity. While retired annuitant sounds redundant, don’t you have to retire to get an annuity payment? It isn’t all that unusual. With the event of SGMA and large projects like Sites to consider in its business, it is common for districts to create positions for former key personnel, like a retiring general manager. It makes no sense to waste the years of valuable institutional knowledge and wisdom accrued. And after decades  – Ed’s note #2.

For more information about Sites go to

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