SACRAMENTO -- A state panel expects a variety of large and small proposals as it has begun taking requests for $2.7 billion set aside in the Proposition 1 water bond for new storage.
The California Water Commission opened a five-month application period on March 14 and has scheduled a workshop March 30 for potential applicants to ask questions related to preparing and submitting their documents, which they must do by Aug. 14.
Commission spokesman Chris Orrock said the state received 44 separate “concept papers” over the past year and a half from groups considering seeking funds for everything from large reservoirs to local groundwater recharge projects.
“Whether all of those apply, I don’t know,” Orrock said. “Since sending out our notice (of opening the application period) we have started to receive some additional inquiries.
“The reality is we could have five applicants or we could have 50 applicants,” he said. “The vast majority won’t submit applications until the end.”
The water storage funds have been perhaps the most anticipated portion of the $7.5 billion water bond passed by California voters in 2014.
Among anticipated suitors are backers of the $3.6 billion Sites Reservoir near Maxwell, who have lined up 34 agency participants, and supporters of the proposed $2.5 billion Temperance Flat Reservoir near Fresno. Others could include sponsors of the planned expansion of the Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County as well as groundwater improvement projects near the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
The state envisions funding a variety of large and small projects, Orrock said.
“That’s really what this chapter of Proposition 1 was for — to have a wide variety of new water storage that provides public benefits to the citizens of California,” he said.
Proposition 1 will fund no more than half the cost of the project, and water bond funds can only be used for public benefits, which the initiative defines as ecosystem improvements, water quality improvements, flood control benefits, emergency response and recreational purposes.
Under ground rules the commission approved in December, projects will be graded largely on their role in improving flows and water quality in the Delta. At least half of the bond funds given to a project would need to go toward ecosystem improvements directly related to the Delta, Orrock has said.
The emphasis on helping the Delta comes as the 1,150-square-mile labyrinth of islands and shallow waterways faces a slew of environmental problems, including pollution, silting, invasive plant species and saltwater intrusion.
After the application period closes, the commission will determine the eligibility of projects and prioritize them and plans to start making funding decisions by June 2018.
The March 30 workshop will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Klamath Hearing Room on the second floor of the California Environmental Protection Agency headquarters, 1001 I St., Sacramento. The workshop will be streamed live at cwc.videossc.com .
The commission has also set up a website with resources for potential applicants. It is https://cwc.ca.gov/Pages/ApplicationResources.aspx .