In the face of strong opposition from the environmental and tribal communities, the California Water Commission deemed four groundwater storage and reservoir projects feasible on Dec. 15, a key hurdle to construction set forth in Proposition 1, the 2014 water bond.
The four projects – Kern Fan Groundwater Storage Project, Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project, Sites Project, and Willow Springs Water Bank Conjunctive Use Project – remain eligible for funding under the $2.7 billion Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) created by Proposition 1. Combined, the projects, if completed, would add 2.77 million acre-feet to California’s water storage capacity.
The local water districts backing these projects will now proceed to permitting and other tasks that must be complete before they are eligible to receive final funding awards from the Commission.
The Kern Fan Project would develop a regional water bank to recharge and store up to 100,000 acre-feet of unallocated Article 21 water available from the State Water Project (SWP) operation in the Kern County Groundwater Sub-basin of the San Joaquin Valley Groundwater Basin. Recovery and use of the stored water would provide public benefits in the form of an emergency water supply, intermittent temporary wetland habitat, and pulse flows to aid Chinook salmon. Construction is expected to begin next year.
The Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project would enlarge an existing reservoir located in southeast Santa Clara County from 6,000 to 140,000 acre-feet. Public benefits include year-round reservoir releases to Pacheco Creek to provide steelhead habitat, water deliveries to south-of-Delta refuges in below normal water years, and approximately 97,000 acre-feet to be available in response to a drought emergency, earthquake disruption, or Delta disruption. Construction is expected to begin in early 2025.
The Sites Project would construct a 1.5 million acre-foot off-stream surface storage reservoir in the Sacramento Valley west of the town of Maxwell. Public benefits include water deliveries to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex and to the Yolo Bypass to benefit Delta smelt, incidental storage to capture flood flows, and increased opportunities for recreation at the proposed Stone Corral and Peninsula Hills recreation areas. Construction is expected to begin mid-2024.
The Willow Springs Water Bank Conjunctive Use Project is proposed as a conjunctive use and reservoir reoperation project that would leverage 500,000 acre-feet of existing groundwater storage facilities and operate conjunctively with the SWP. Public benefits include pulse flows to increase emigration of juvenile Chinook salmon, and up to 215,000 acre-feet of water for emergencies such as a Delta disruption. Construction is expected to begin late 2022.
At the previous two Commission meetings, three other WSIP projects – the Chino Basin Conjunctive Use Environmental Water Storage/Exchange Program, Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion Project and the Harvest Water Program – all met the statutory deadline and remain eligible for WSIP funding.
“I believe there is nothing more important right now than building out properly vetted water storage projects that will serve our state and its citizens for generations to come,” said Commission Vice-Chair Matt Swanson.