North state ready if Sites Reservoir ever gets built: Joint Power Authority

www.chicoer.com/news/ci_15848955

By HEATHER HACKING - Staff Writer
Posted: 08/21/2010 12:05:32 AM PDT

WILLOWS -- Building Sites Reservoir near Maxwell is not at the top of the state's agenda right now, but folks in Northern California have formed a joint powers authority to be ready when the topic heats back up.

The proposed reservoir, in the Antelope Valley near Maxwell, has been studied and talked about for years. An $11 billion state water bond was originally planned for the November ballot that includes $3 billion for new storage, but was postponed until 2012.

The newly formed Sites Project Joint Powers Authority will hold an official signing party next week, putting itself in a position to help "the planning, design and potential construction, governance and operation" of Sites in a "locally acceptable manner," the group stated in recent memo.

So far, those on-board include Glenn County, Colusa County, Reclamation District No. 108, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District, Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority, Maxwell Irrigation District, and Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. More may be added.

A joint powers authority is a public entity, with membership from public authorities, and subject to the Public Powers Act, including public disclosure rules.

The first steps will be to establish a consulting committee, explained Thad Bettner, general manager of Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District.

As things move forward, the group will work on project agreements for construction and operation.

"People will know the scope of the work conducted and the
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exact costs," Bettner continued.

While 2012 may seem a distant date, Bettner said the group wants to be ready.

"Our concern is it's a timing issue," he said.

"Our perspective is we could expedite that process and ensure local interests are respected and protected," Bettner said on behalf of the JPA.

"Sites has been studied for decades," he noted.

"The potential benefits have been well investigated. The issue is how to get a feasible project that has a chance of being constructed, while trying to determine the public benefits to the environment as well as water supply.

"The time is right to determine if Sites is a project and has benefits — or not," Bettner said.

Locals have knowledge of "how the water system operates," and can help "to identify the best project we can build to provide the most benefits at the least cost," he continued.

Also, "if new storage moves forward, we have to have some pretty broad buy-in."

The legislation in the water bond identified five benefits, Bettner said: ecosystem, flood control, water quality, recreation and emergency response.

The legislation also requires a 50/50 cost share for those who benefit, he said.

New water supply demands are mostly outside of the Sacramento Valley, he said, but Northern California is often eyed for additional water supply.

Also, although the bond vote has been pushed back to 2012, "they didn't extend any of the compliance dates for storage," Bettner said.

As things are written now, if the bond passed in 2012, soon after decisions would need to be made on storage, he said. "We need to be prepared."

Short-term plans are to meet as a group, and later invite state and federal water agencies to give an update on Sites planning activities.

Staff writer Heather Hacking can be reached at 896-7758 or hhacking@chicoer.com.