The water agency that supplies drinking water to Los Angeles agreed Tuesday to contribute $1.5 million toward the planning of Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley, giving the agency a toehold in a potentially valuable storage project.
The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, as expected, approved the expenditure by a unanimous vote. If the agency eventually decides to contribute to the construction project itself, it would entitle Metropolitan to control up to 50,000 acre-feet of storage in the reservoir. Sites, to be built on the Glenn-Colusa county line, would store up to 1.8 million acre-feet.
Metropolitan General Manager Jeff Kightlinger has said he isn’t interested in investing in Sites unless California moves ahead with plans to build twin tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but he believes Metroplitan should contribute to planning and development costs as a way of maintaining its interest in the Sites project in the interim.
The controversial tunnels project is designed to overhaul the Delta’s troubled plumbing system and ease water delivery to Southern California. Critics have called Metropolitan’s investment in Sites a means of siphoning more Northern California water to the south.
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Sites has the backing of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration and is preparing to apply for financial aid from Proposition 1, the voter-approved water bond that has $2.7 billion available for reservoirs and other infrastructure. Sites would seek up to $2.2 billion of the funds, representing half the estimated cost of the reservoir.