The California Water Commission has determined the funding that projects are eligible for under Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond approved by voters in 2014.
Of the more than $2.8 million in maximum eligibility, the largest chunk by far is for the planned Sites Reservoir west of Maxwell, Calif. Based on its public benefits, the 300,000 acre-foot reservoir could receive as much as $1.008 billion, according to a commission news release.
The next largest potential chunk of money is $459 million for the Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion project in northeastern Contra Costa County. Three of the 11 projects under review were deemed ineligible -- the Centennial Water Supply Project in Placer County, the Pure Water San Diego program and the Tulare Lake Storage and Floodwater Protection Project in the eastern San Joaquin Valley.
The decisions capped a three-day meeting in Sacramento this week, in which the commission heard staff recommendations as well as comments from funding applicants and the public. The eight projects deemed eligible will move forward to the next phase of project scoring, state officials say.
"We appreciate the dialogue with applicants and the public this week, and the commission shares their desire to fund as many eligible projects as possible," chairman Armando Quintero said in a statement after the proceedings. "While our decisions mean some projects will not be eligible for their full ask due to the requirements of Proposition 1, at the end of this process we will be kickstarting a variety of projects that add significant water storage for California's future."
Temperance Flat snubbed
The planned Temperance Flat Reservoir near Fresno was considered eligible for $171.3 million. The perceived snub didn't sit well with U.S. Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., who asserted Friday the panel's decision harms “Central Valley farms, families, and entire communities" that "lack access to a clean, reliable water supply."
"Despite severe water shortages throughout the state, and with complete disregard for the wishes of California voters, the California Water Commission has again acted to prevent funding for the proposed project, which, upon completion would more than double water storage on the San Joaquin River," Valadao said in a statement. "The Commission’s refusal to fund critical water infrastructure projects is unacceptable and I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure the completion of the Temperance Flat project.”
Proposition 1 funds the public benefit aspects of water storage projects. Specifically, they include ecosystem improvement, water quality improvement, flood control, recreation and emergency response. Applications for Proposition 1 funding must detail these public benefits, along with a measurable benefit for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, to receive funding, state officials explain. The commission made decisions based on each project's public benefits value -- one of four component scores that will be used to determine funding. The value of the public benefits determines the maximum eligible funding each project can receive from the program because of limits set in Proposition 1.
Sites proponents have touted the project's benefits to the Delta, arguing it would add flexibility for seasonal fish flows, improving water quality and keeping water cool enough to sustain salmon while also providing drought relief.
As the combined maximum eligible funding for proposed projects now totals $2.8 billion, which is greater than the $2.6 billion in available Proposition 1 funding, the commission voted to allow applicants to confirm or adjust their funding request by 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 9. Adjusting the funding request can change the public benefit ratio, state officials say.
On May 25, the commission's staff will release recommendations for the remaining component scores: relative environmental value, resiliency and implementation risk, the state's news release explains. The panel will make final decisions on those scores at its June 27-29 meeting. Preliminary award decisions will be made in July, state officials say.