The Los Vaqueros Reservoir, located in northeastern Contra Costa County. Photo by Dale Kolke / DWR

CA WATER COMMISSION: Water Storage Investment Program project update

In 2014, voters approved Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act, which provided $2.6 billion to be invested in the public benefits of water storage projects.  The California Water Commission is administering the funding through the Water Storage Investment Program.  Seven projects have been selected for funding.  At the March 15 meeting of the California Water Commission, staff provided an update on the projects, which are all now on their own schedules to complete the program requirements.

Harvest Water Program:  The Harvest Water Program is a conjunctive use project that will supply up to 50,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water to be used to irrigate up to 16,000 acres of agriculture and habitat near the lower Cosumnes River and Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.  This project will be the first to complete the requirements and request a final funding award hearing, expected in the next few months.  At the meeting, the Commission received a virtual project tour (here are the slides and here is a video) and reviewed and commented on draft contracts for the administration of public benefits (Here is the draft contract for ecosystem benefits and here is the draft contract for water quality benefits).

Los Vaqueros Reservoir Expansion:  The Contra Costa Water District and partners plan to raise the dam at Los Vaqueros Reservoir and enlarge the reservoir’s capacity from 160,000 to 275,000 acre-feet.  The project will also upgrade and construct existing conveyance and reoperate existing facilities to achieve the intended objectives of delivering water to water to agencies within CCWD’s service area, the Bay Area, the Delta, neighboring regions, and the south-of-Delta wildlife refuges.   This project is expected to complete requirements and request a final funding award hearing later this year.

Sites Reservoir:  Sites Reservoir is a 1.5 million acre-foot off-stream surface storage reservoir proposed for the Sacramento Valley west of the town of Maxwell.  The project applicants submitted additional info on their water rights application with the State Water Board in January and are waiting for a response and the move into the next phase of the water rights process.  The project is finalizing a recirculated EIR, which is expected in May or June.  The project is estimated to complete requirements and request a final funding award hearing in December of 2024.  Construction would begin after that, with the facility completed in 2030.

Chino Basin Conjunctive Use Environmental Water Storage/Exchange Program: The Chino Basin Program proposes to construct an advanced water treatment facility and distribution facilities that would store up to 15,000 acre-feet per year of treated wastewater in the Chino Basin Water Bank.  The Inland Empire Utilities Agency is currently working on a preliminary design report expected to be completed in late spring.  The preliminary design will establish the permitting pathway for the project.  A final funding award hearing is estimated for March 2025.

Kern Fan Groundwater Project:  This project will develop a regional water bank in the Kern Fan area to recharge and store up to 100,000 acre-feet of Article 21 water in the Kern County Groundwater Sub-basin.  Currently, the applicants are designing the phase 1 recharge basin.  A physical connection to conveyance infrastructure is needed for phase 2; they are considering a location on the State Water Project or an alternate location as part of the Cross Valley Canal.  Where this is located will determine the conveyance routing and permitting requirements.  A decision is expected in 2024.  Staff currently estimates the final funding award hearing in February of 2026.

Pacheco Reservoir Expansion:  The Santa Clara Valley Water District is looking to enlarge the existing Pacheco Reservoir in southeast Santa Clara County from 6000 acre-feet to 141,600 acre-feet.   The project costs have ballooned to $2.5 billion, with only $504 million of funding coming from the water storage program.  The project is preparing to recirculate its environmental impact report, which has changed the project timeline.  A draft EIR/EIS is now expected in May 2025.  The final funding award hearing is estimated for the summer of 2027.

Willow Springs Water Bank Conjunctive Use Project: The Willow Springs Water Bank is an existing facility located in the Antelope Valley Groundwater Basin.  The proposed project is a conjunctive use and reservoir reoperation project that would leverage 500,000 acre-feet of existing groundwater storage facilities and operate conjunctively with the State Water Project (SWP) to provide ecosystem benefits north of the Delta.  Operations require agreements with one or more SWP partners that would forego delivery of SWP water in exchange for receiving water from the Willow Springs Water Bank.  The applicant is working to obtain an SWP contractor for this project and apparently has been stalled at this point for some time.  An early funding agreement has been prepared, but the applicant has not executed that agreement to utilize those funds.

The Commissioners expressed concerns about whether the Willow Spring project will move forward since they can’t seem to find a willing State Water Project contractor.  Commissioners requested a meeting with the project applicants to assess progress.  Holly Stout, legal counsel for the Commission, said that while the Commission doesn’t have the authority to set specific deadlines, the Commission can determine a project is not making adequate progress and therefore is no longer eligible for funding.  The Willow Springs Water Bank is slated to receive $128 million.

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