MAXWELL, Calif. — A Northern California congressman says he hopes his bill in Congress will motivate state and federal planners to complete a feasibility study on the proposed Sites Reservoir near here.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., has cosponsored a bill with Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., to set a deadline of late next year for the study and to authorize construction of the project if needed.

“The bill is a statement of support by the two representatives in the area,” Garamendi told the Capital Press. “It also has the purpose of stimulating discussion in Congress and within the administration — the Interior Department, the Commerce Department and (Environmental Protection Agency). This issue is alive and it is going to move.”

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the state Department of Water Resources and other agencies have been studying the workability of the planned 1.8 million acre-foot reservoir since before the CALFED Bay-Delta Program’s record of decision in 2000 listed Sites as a potential project.

Talk of building the reservoir heated up again with the campaign to pass a $7.5 billion state water bond, which voters approved in November. The California Water Commission could begin awarding bond money to storage projects as early as December 2016.

Garamendi’s and LaMalfa’s House Resolution 1060 would require the feasibility study to be done in time for funding from the bond and would authorize the federal government to lead construction of the project if needed.

“We think California voters have spoken loud and clear that they support new storage,” LaMalfa spokesman Kevin Eastman said. “We’re trying to create an avenue to meet that need.”

The $3.6 billion Sites Reservoir project is one of several around the state that has been identified for potential funding from the bond’s $2.7 billion allocated for storage. Others include the proposed $2.5 billion Temperance Flat Reservoir near Fresno and a plan to raise Shasta Dam by as much as 18 feet.

For the Sites project in western Colusa and Glenn counties, a joint powers authority formed in 2009 has been gathering commitments from those that would benefit from the additional water supply, as bond funds would only pay for such public benefits as recreation and environmental enhancement.

The bill comes as the state Department of Water Resources reported on Feb. 20 that Sites could generate as much as 900,000 acre-feet of additional water storage during drought years. An acre-foot is enough water to serve a family household for a year.

The feasibility study and environmental reviews will “become very important in quantifying” environmental benefits from the reservoir project, Garamendi said.

“The legislation is one more piece” aimed at pushing the feasibility study forward, the congressman said. “It’s not about its passage, although it may and I hope it would. Frankly that’s not essential at this point … We’re kind of pushing this ball down the hill.”

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