Sites Reservoir

Episode 16: The Case for Sites

Insufficient investment in water storage has brought about an almost yearly struggle in California, and another dry start to the rainy season is cause for concern. 

A big part of the solution to inadequate water storage may come a project that has been debated for more than half a century – Sites Reservoir, which would be built in rural Colusa and Glenn Counties. 

Sites Reservoir is the largest surface storage facility proposed to be added to California’s water supply system since New Melones Reservoir in 1979.

Tim Quinn
Tim Quinn, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

“Sites Reservoir, in my opinion, is sort of the poster child of modern surface water storage in California,” remarked Tim Quinn, who has 40 years of experience in water issues, including at the largest water district in the state, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. “In years gone by, we used to build dams on live rivers with great ecological damage. We’re not doing that any more. Sites is a wonderful example of an off-site storage facility that has virtually no footprint impacts, and is being woven into a comprehensive package in the Sacramento Valley to do multiple purposes… It’s a classic example of modern water management in 21st century California.”

The three major water consumers in California – the environment, cities and farms – all stand to benefit if Sites is completed. 

Fritz Durst
Fritz Durst, Yolo County farmer

“The Sites Reservoir Project is very unique,” said Fritz Durst, a diversified farmer in Yolo County who serves as chair of the Sites Joint Powers Authority. “Because of Proposition 1 funding, Sites Reservoir would have its own unique block of water that’s solely for the environment… it won’t have a junior priority… it could be used for fish, for birds or for water quality, Delta outflow, for the many small critters that live in the Delta.”

Durst said if Sites were built, it would not lead to major growth in acreage of Sacramento Valley crops, including rice, but it would create a more certain water supply, which would be invaluable to farmers, ranchers and support industries. 

He added urban residents would benefit from Sites Reservoir, through a more stable water supply. Having additional water in storage would gather water in wet years and make it available during dry periods.

Mary Wells
Mary Wells, Sites area rancher

Mary Wells owns and runs a ranch in Sites. Her experience is unique – decades of ranching in a remote part of the Sacramento Valley as well as a leader in water and agriculture in the valley. She calls the prospect of building water storage in the Sites Valley bittersweet, but something that should happen for the betterment of our state.

“In terms of the physical viability of a reservoir here, it’s just amazing,” she said. “You have two major canyons that come in…. but when you consider an area of about 14,000-acres, about 14-15 miles from one tip to another, that’s amazing. It’s just a natural bowl.” 

Jerry Brown
Jerry Brown

Jerry Brown, Executive Director of the Sites Project Authority, is among those determined to get this storage facility built. He said he sees growing momentum to get the project completed.

“One of the key aspects of the Sites Reservoir Project for California is that it is creating flexibility for our system, which is badly needed,” he said. “You hear a lot about climate change and the fact that we’re getting a lot more extreme variability in our precipitation. We need storage facilities in order to regulate the water flow to some degree, to allow us to optimize its use.” 

Sites would be an off-stream storage facility. It has recently been ‘right-sized,’ with some areas scaled back to help ensure the project can be built in a reasonable time frame.  Key aspects of the new plan include a slight reduction in the storage capacity, the elimination of a new conveyance pipeline that would have brought in and taken out water from the Sacramento River and pump back storage for energy generation. The changes reduced the project cost about $2 billion, to $3 billion.  

Brown said if all goes well, construction on Sites could begin by about 2024, with the facility completed and operating by 2030. 

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Episode Transcript

Jim Morris: California has natural beauty and tremendous commerce. We’re the most populous state and the most productive farm state. We also aren’t without significant issues. Besides COVID-19, we’ve had multiple years of devastating wildfires. Something that doesn’t grab as many headlines has also proven to be a big challenge, a lack of adequate water storage. Without water in reserve, dry winters can cause widespread pain. I’m in Sites in rural Colusa County, which may be a critical link for a better future for our environment, cities and farms.

Welcome to Ingrained, the California Rice Podcast. I’m your host, Jim Morris, proud to have worked for 30 years with farmers and ranchers in the state to help tell their stories. And today’s subject is critical to all Californians, ensuring sufficient water for future generations.

One brief footnote, these interviews were done prior to the state’s latest COVID-19 stay at home order.

I’m with Mary Wells, fifth generation rancher in Sites. And Mary, tell me a little bit about your family history and also the history of this area.

Mary Wells: My roots in this area go way, way back. I am actually fifth generation Californian. My great, great grandfather was W H Williams, the founder of the little town of Williams. As a youngster, I used to come up here with my grandfather. We had cattle ranches in Merced. Spent a lot of time up here, my brother and I. After college, I inherited, when my grandfather passed away, inherited some properties and have since expanded. Went into farming and ranching on these rangelands. Very interesting place, lots of history, mid-1800s. John Sites came into this area, brought some sheep in and liked the area so much he came back a few years later. He was a man of great foresight. He had a brother, I think he had two brothers that came here. Had adjoining ranches, operated the same, grain, sheep, so on. The family retained the ranch that I have. John Lee Sites took it over and I purchased this from the Sites’ family in 1974.

So they had this for a long, long time. And the bottom line is that, at one point, Sites was a very significant little community in the foothills. Not was there dry land wheat farming on all of the flats and in the lower hills, there was a very prosperous sheep production in the hills. And, on the way into Sites, there is a very famous quarry and there was a narrow gauge railroad. The Colusa Lake Railroad that came from Colusa and the river of Sacramento and brought the slabs of sandstone that were cut in the quarry. And they would come up into Sites. There was a turntable, and they would go back to the Sacramento River and be loaded on barges and taken to San Francisco. And, if you’ve visited San Francisco, the Ferry Building the Emporium, a lot of the facades in San Francisco are from the Sites quarry.

The train was also used on holidays to bring people up into Sites. They had an annual Easter picnic. You can imagine it, the women in their fancy dresses and parasol…I would not have done well in that generation, but they would come up for the day and they had games and picnics and food. And so it was a very thriving, thriving community. Hard to imagine today.

As time moved on and highest and best use for land always prevails. The grain disappeared in the fifties and sixties, 1950 in 1960. The sheep went to somewhere along about the same line. There are no sheep here now, all cattle. In fact, almost all of the valley, which is about 14,000 acres. And then of course you have, the hills are utilized as well. So, you’ve got more acreage there, but most of that now is winter rangeland for the cattle.

Jim Morris: Is it safe to say there are more cattle on this ranch than people that live in Sites?

Mary Wells: Oh, very much so. Yes. From November through May, the cattle definitely have the upper hand on population. Currently there’s probably 15 families that live here. When I first came here, there were 22, 23 are carrying on. The interesting thing though is, while we have cattle and this is a very integral part of our total operation, I would say almost everyone who farms or now ranches here also has significant investment and concerns in the Valley. On the other side in irrigated lands.

Jim Morris: I know it’s not an easy issue here because you have such an emotional investment in this area. We also desperately need water storage. So how do you reconcile those two? And tell me a little bit about this area as a potential water storage area?

Mary Wells: Oh, that’s a great question. When I first came here and of course you’re checking out our ranch and all of the things, I was told that the Bureau of Reclamation clear back in the fifties was looking at this for a reservoir. And I said, “Oh, interesting.” Did some research on it and found out that actually Sites was easily designated as a potential off stream storage as far back as the fifties and the Central Valley Project or CVP was very interested in it. They had done a lot of studies.

In fact, I had some observation wells, studies going on in 1974. But it was shortly thereafter, about ’77, that all went away, political change. The studies and maps were all rolled up and put away by the Bureau of Reclamation, never to be seen again. In terms of the physical viability of a reservoir here, it’s just an amazing…you have two major canyons, if you will, that come in. I know the proposed project calls for the two major dams and nine small saddle dams. But when you consider an area of 14,000 acres, about 14 to 15 miles from one tip to another, that’s amazing. It’s just a natural bowl.

Jim Morris: We do have a significant issues in California in terms of water storage. You also have 40 plus years of experience at the water issues, actively engaged also a leader in agriculture. So you’re balancing all that out and I believe you’ve come to the conclusion that Sites should be carried out here for the betterment, the ultimate betterment of our state.

Mary Wells: Yes, I do agree with that. In my early research, I knew that this was a potential reservoir. And I remember asking Bureau of Reclamation, Bill Martin, he was at that time the director, and I said, “Mr. Martin, should I repair the screen porch or not?” And he said, “Mary, I think you probably will do that two or three times before the reservoir.” He says it needs to happen, but California politics, agencies grind very slowly.

Jim Morris: Where would we be if we do not beef up our water storage in California? I mean, it’s very dry right now. What are some of the things that you’re doing that you wouldn’t be doing if we had rain so far this fall?

Mary Wells: We’re feeding hay. I have a fortunately a fairly good well, but there are areas where we’ll need to haul water in to make it through the winter. So, it’s significant. When we don’t have the rain we normally do on as I go out in the valley and I think about the operation out there of the potential for water shortages, the need to transfer or use groundwater for my orchard ground. That’s on my mind, if it doesn’t rain. The rice production, critical part of our total operation. We may be short or the seasons limited. It’s not so much the water right now, but it’s when we can use it out of the Sacramento River. From one end of my operation to the other, I am feeling the significance of lack of rain.

Jim Morris: In your estimation, will Sites be completed in your lifetime?

Mary Wells: Well, I have so much to do. I keep telling my kids I’m going to be around for a long time. I got a lot of unfinished projects. I don’t know if they agree with that or not, but I laughingly say that. I really hope so. Leaders in Northern California, clear back in the early nineties, said we need to start thinking about this. This was a very farsighted group of leaders in Northern California Water Association that…

Mary Wells: In fact, we had sort of a kickoff meeting here. I spoke on the steps of my house there to kick off the concept of getting it going again. And that was in the early 1990s. One other interesting thing I did to reach out, for three years I did tours every month, mostly year round with Metropolitan Water District board members and what a great experience that was. But more importantly, they went home. You would not believe the letters I received that they just did not understand how important the environment and all that we do up here is to the total picture of California. I did that for three years and hoping to get the word out for all Californians that this is a great project and we really need to have it done.

Jim Morris: His career in California water has spanned more than 40 years. I feel very fortunate to visit with Tim Quinn. Tim’s resume includes 22 years at Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves 19 million customers and is California’s largest water district. He also served 11 years at the helm of the Association of California Water Agencies. So Tim let’s get right into water storage in California. What is your assessment as to how adequate our storage capacity currently is in the state?

Tim Quinn: There’s no doubt in my mind, we need no more storage capacity, both above ground and below ground, which is where we’ve been heading through much of my career. Sites Reservoir is, in my opinion, sort of the poster child of modern storage in California, modern surface storage anyway. In years gone by, we used to build reservoirs, dams on live rivers with great ecological damage. We’re not doing that anymore and Sites is a wonderful example of an offsite storage facility that has virtually no footprint impact. Very, very little compared to what storage used to do. And it’s being woven into a comprehensive package in the Sacramento Valley to do multiple purposes. To serve the environment while it serves rice farmers, while it serves cities. It’s a classic example of modern water management in 21st century California.

Jim Morris: In your time at Metropolitan Water District, how did the water storage situation for your district change? And what are your thoughts about that?

Tim Quinn: Water storage was one of the most important changes that happened in Southern California in the last quarter of the last century. When I went to work at the Metropolitan Water District in 1985, Metropolitan had 200,000 acre feet of storage capacity. Next to 4 million acre feet of demand a year. So next to none. But the leaders of Metropolitan realized…by the way, they have so little storage because they were counting on the state to do the storing water for them under the state water contract.

Tim Quinn: By the time you got to the late 1980s, it was clear the state wasn’t going to do that. So I was part of the team that really focused on expanding Metropolitan Water District Storage, and today with Diamond Valley Lake, with all the groundwater storage partnerships that I helped negotiate, the Metropolitan Water District has more than 4 million acre feet of storage capacity available to it. And that is what saved that economy during the last two big droughts.

Jim Morris: There are three distinct water users in our state, the environment, cities and farms, and the environment is a big deal in our state. And how would Sites help in that regard, and how important is nurturing our environment in terms of water use?

Tim Quinn: Nurturing the environment is absolutely essential in modern California. You didn’t have to pay attention to it through most of the 20th century, but it is a driving political factor today. And I couldn’t be more pleased by that. That is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. You have to design and manage a project like Sites for the environment as much as you do for water supply for the Sacramento region and other parts of California. I was one of the main negotiators that negotiated what became Proposition 1 and defined a new approach to storage in the state of California, where we were understanding that storage was going to be multi-benefit. It was going to work for the environment and for water supply agencies. And we got the public to agree to pay for the portions that were not for water supply. So, we are building expressly multiple purpose projects up in a place like Sites Reservoir. And I think all Californians should celebrate that.

Jim Morris: So what is your guess as to whether Sites will be completed someday?

Tim Quinn: If you want something done in modern California, you have to develop a coalition of support. Used to be the big water agencies could decide what they wanted and could roll over everybody else and get their projects built. That doesn’t happen in California anymore or anywhere else. So, the people who are managing Sites understand that, and they are building coalitions of support. They always talk about multiple benefits. They talk about multiple partners. They’re reaching out across old silo lines to deal with environmentalists and others. That’s how you get complex, controversial things built. I don’t think you can say Sites will never be controversial. There will be those that will oppose it, but I’m pretty optimistic that you can build Sites Reservoir.

Jim Morris: I’m in the Dunnigan Hills in Yolo County speaking with Fritz Durst, a sixth generation grower. Fritz, what are some of the things that you grow?

Fritz Durst: Out west out here in the dry land area I raise three or four different types of wheat. I raise hay for cattle. I also have some wine grapes and asparagus and I also run beef cattle.

Jim Morris: You also grow rice in the Sacramento Valley and you’re also chair of the Sites Joint Powers Authority. So tell me a little bit about what the Joint Powers Authority is.

Fritz Durst: The Joint Powers Authority is a group of Northern California agencies. Some of them are water agencies, some of it is counties, cities, the city of Sacramento, for example, is involved. And we got together with a common goal of developing a more secure water system. It wasn’t necessarily to get more water to expand growth in California, but as we all know, in the drought years the shortcomings harm the cities, the environment and agriculture as well.

Jim Morris: If Site’s reservoir is built, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a massive expansion of rice or other crops in the Sacramento Valley?

Fritz Durst: Yeah, that’s correct. In 2014 and ’15, we actually fallowed a lot of rice in Northern California. And, the water that would have been used on those fields was transferred to urban areas and also to environmental needs in the Delta region. What Sites will do, will backfill that water in those drier years and give us a lot more security.

Jim Morris: How helpful would Sites Reservoir be for our environment?

Fritz Durst: The Sites reservoir project is very unique. Because of Prop 1 funding, Sites reservoir will have its own unique block of water that is solely for the environment, and it will be managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. And it won’t have a junior priority. It will get as much water or what it’s percentage of water, just like everybody else from the reservoir. If it’s needed for fish, it could be used for fish. It could be used for birds or terrestrials. Or, maybe just water quality Delta outflow for the minutiae, the many small, small critters that live in the Delta.

Jim Morris: So, this is a beautiful backdrop here in the Dunnigan Hills. And how important is the environment for you and how much does the environment factor into what you do? Because you sit on some water boards, et cetera. And it seems like more and more there is discussion about salmon and birds, et cetera, when you’re looking at the agricultural community.

Fritz Durst: The environment’s really important to me. I spend a lot of my time out of doors. I just love…It’s beautiful. Just this morning, I saw two Golden Eagles in one of my grain fields from this past year. And I learned as a younger man that I can either have a park or a parking lot. And I’ve chose the prior, the park. I want this place to be beautiful. I want to make…to be home for not just myself and my crops, but also to mother nature.

Jim Morris: How impressed are you with the level of innovation and efficiency with water use in the Sacramento Valley?

Fritz Durst: I think we have a phenomenal story to tell. When we take a drop of water and apply it to a rice field in the Northern part of the valley, oftentimes the water flows through the rice field, it’s needed for culturally to grow a better crop, but then that water is picked up by another rice farmer and it gets used four or five times before it actually gets back into the Sacramento River. And, that’s the rice farmer. And the rice farmer provides benefits for those who eat the rice, for the local economy, as I just pointed out. But also, the untold story is all the wildlife that benefits from that drop of water. You have birds, you have reptiles. Later in the winter, phytoplankton grows in that water. And when the water goes back into the Sacramento River, it feeds fingerling salmon. We’re just on the tip of the iceberg learning about the fishery and how rice can contribute to the health of the fish. We know a lot about waterfowl already, and we’re actually using, we’re taking that model and applying it to the fish and with great results.

Jim Morris: How helpful would Sites be for those in urban areas?

Fritz Durst: It will be very helpful. As we all know, we’re experiencing climate change and what I’m seeing out here in my fields, as we see with water, we’re seeing huge variability between years. Last year we had an okay amount of rain. The year before we had lots of rain. This year so far, this fall looks very dry, does not look promising. Sites will capture those high flows in the wet years. It’s an off stream storage. So what that means is it sits back in an area where there’s just a small creek. We’re not damning a major river. Unfortunately, we have to pump the water in there though. But when the water runs out, we can generate electricity. So it doesn’t make a huge footprint in terms of carbon footprint, but it will provide us that stability in the wet years. So in the years when everyone has to stop watering their lawns and let things die and businesses struggle because they don’t have an adequate water supply for their processing, it will help in those years.

Jim Morris: From a farmer perspective, you have a lot of uncertainty in what you do. Yields and markets are two examples where there are wide fluctuations. How helpful would it be to have a more secure water supply moving forward?

Fritz Durst: As a farmer, we have markets and then we also have commitments. So, in the case of markets, we’ll develop markets for rice, for example, for processors to use our rice, to make Rice Krispies and other things. But when we can’t supply them, then they go elsewhere looking for a product and then they have to retool their factories or food processing. So we lose markets. And then it’s hard to get back into those spaces. And it’s not just the grower, it’s also our community. We have infrastructure. I personally have millions of dollars of farm equipment and some of that I have loans on and I need to make my payments every year. And having stability helps me to be able to make those decisions. We also have all the support people. We have people who in the trucking business, we have people in the fertilizer and herbicide business and the processing of these crops. And those people are all affected as well. So by offering them stability, it’s a greater plus for the whole valley.

Jim Morris: I know what you’d like to have happen, but do you believe that you will see Sites Reservoir completed?

Fritz Durst: I do. It’s still a bumpy road ahead of us here. And the reason I think it will be completed is because California needs more water. I know it’s expensive, but we’ve done a great job in the last year trying to get the right size here for the project. I mean, it’s like we were going to build a Greyhound bus when all we needed was a little minivan. So, we’ve got a better focus on what it is we really need and I’m confident it will get built. Hopefully I’ll live long enough to see it.

Jim Morris: Jerry Brown is Executive Director of the Sites Project Authority. Jerry, thanks so much for your time. Can you tell me a little bit about your background in water?

Jerry Brown: Sure Jim. Thanks for having me and thanks for your podcast. It’s really a wonderful to have you in the community talking about these issues and particularly on this one, talking about the Sites Reservoir project, which is so important to the state of California. My background, well, first of all, I’m the other Jerry Brown. Let me just say that. And I’ve been in water management and utilities in California for over 30 years, but in water management for the last two decades and the last decade from about 2010 to 2019, I was a general manager at Contra Costa Water District. And after that stint, I started my own firm Waterology Consulting, and then this opportunity came up to lead the Sites project and was selected and really pleased to be able to be a part of this important project.

Jim Morris: The water situation in California is far from robust. So as we move forward, conservation and efficiency, more of that will be helpful. I think most people understand we need water storage. Why is Sites a good fit?

Jerry Brown: Well I think one of the key aspects of the Sites Reservoir project for California is that it is creating flexibility for our system, which is badly needed. You hear a lot about climate change and the fact that we’re getting a lot more extreme variability in our precipitation. We need storage facilities in order to regulate the water flow to some degree, and to allow us to optimize its use. We talk a lot about groundwater basins being depleted and issues with that.

Jerry Brown: Well, those groundwater basins can’t absorb the water as it comes naturally in the same way that we can when we have off stream storage reservoirs, where we can park the water when it’s available and then regulate it out as needed for the various uses throughout the state.

Jim Morris: Why is this area such a good fit? It does have a bowl shape, if you will. So comment a bit about that. And also Sites has been right-sized, I believe is the term. So tell me a little bit about all of those things.

Jerry Brown: The Site is really unique and it’s been considered for storage of water for over six decades. It’s just the topography of the area is just wonderful. Its proximity to the river. Its proximity to existing conveyance facilities that are in place. The Tehama-Colusa Canal and the Glenn-Colusa Canal. Both of those are key aspects of getting the water into the reservoir. And a couple of years ago, we went through public process with the environmental document, and we went through a public process with the grant program with the state, the Prop 1 grant, and got a lot of feedback from folks about different aspects of the project.

Jerry Brown: And before I came to the project, the team sat down and said, “Okay, well with all this feedback, what can we actually get done? What can we actually afford and get permitted?” And took a hard look at all those things and said, “Okay, let’s try to optimize what we’ve got here and put a package together that can actually get built within a reasonable amount of time.”

Jerry Brown: And that’s essentially what came out of the right sizing. Pretty much three key aspects out of that, number one, the size of the reservoir downsized a little bit from about 1.8 million acre feet, total storage capacity to about 1.5 million acre feet storage capacity. So that eliminates some of the footprint issues and also reduces a little bit in the storage, but not substantially. A big, big piece that was adjusted was the elimination of what’s called the Delevan pipeline. That was going to be a new conveyance pipe that was going to bring water into the reservoir from the Sacramento River and take it back out to the Sacramento River. Just very controversial for a lot of different reasons and that has since been eliminated.

Jerry Brown: And then finally pump back storage for energy generation was an original piece of the project. And that has been eliminated because it just didn’t pencil out from a business case perspective at this time. Not that we can’t do it in the future, but it just didn’t make sense right now.

Jerry Brown: So, all of those changes combined reduced the total project costs by about $2 billion, from $5.2 billion to about $3 billion. And so that sets us up for a more affordable situation. We also adjusted our assumptions about how often and when we could take water out of the Sacramento River safely and be protective of the species. And, with those adjustments, we are reducing our benefits from the project by about a half, to about 240,000 acre feet of new water supplies generated on average every year. All of those things factored together, give us an affordable, permitable and buildable project, which are three of the key ingredients for actually getting anything done in the state of California.

Jim Morris: The environment is critical in California. How would Sites specifically help for the environment?

Jerry Brown: I mentioned the protective diversion criteria. Using the existing state-of-the-art fish screens that are existing at Hamilton City and Red Bluff at the existing canal diversion points. Very key factors. Beyond that though, we have a major component of investment by the state through the Proposition 1 water supply investment program, which involves benefits for refuges. So, some of the water that we would be diverting and supplying would be for the purpose of supplies to refuges, to help the Pacific Flyway. And then another would be to improve flows in the river and into the Delta.

Jerry Brown: We are inextricably connected to the Delta through the Sacramento River and, where we are located, positions us uniquely so that we can make some significant contributions to both the flow patterns in the Delta, but also to helping to bring some of the flow that’s necessary to create and restore floodplains for the production of food for fish and the improvement of the habitat for the fish in the river. And beyond that, we’re working with the federal government to coordinate our operations in a way that we might be able to help with the cold water that’s available up at the Shasta Lake and Oroville Lake, to serve the needs of the spawning and rearing of salmon in the Sacramento River at times. So we’re excited about that as well as in partnership with the federal government.

Jim Morris: We’ve had a bit of a dry cycle since 2013. Ups and downs. Some years have been wet, but many have been dry. And here we are in December, it’s beautiful weather but we need the rain desperately. So Jerry, how would Sites help equalize all of that moving forward?

Jerry Brown: Those periods where it’s wetter, we need to be able to capture that water and the Sites Reservoir…we went through that period 2013 to 2015, very dry period, lots of effects on various parts of our economy. And, then we came out of that and we got a few wetter years and things kind of felt like they went back to normal. Well, those are the years that we need to be bringing water into places like Sites and storing it so that when we go into these drier periods, which we could be going back into a drier period, that we have the water and it’s available for our use.

Jim Morris: The Sacramento Valley is a really unique and special place. How important is it, Jerry, to maintain what we have here in terms of the environment, the communities and the farms?

Jerry Brown: One of the things that we recently did on the project is we went through a strategic planning process. And, as part of that, we revisited our vision, mission and values of ourselves as an organization, as an authority. And, I’m really happy that as part of those values, that our board adopted a key tenant of respecting and honoring the local community. And, we are not going to be successful without the support and the contribution of the local community. I mean, there are landowners that are literally giving up their farms for the benefit of all of us in California. And, I’m happy to see and very diligent about making sure that we maintain that, that contribution be honored and respected and valued as an organization. Including as we go forward, addressing concerns and discussing the project with folks and making sure that any issues or any sort of items that they feel are important for this local community, that we address those within the context of the project.

Jim Morris: So, help for the environment, cities and farms. However, this has been discussed for more than a half a century. Not to be indelicate, but do you feel Sites will get done? And if so, what kind of timeframe is ideal? What’s the earliest that Sites could be in place?

Jerry Brown: I think Sites Reservoir absolutely has to be built for the state of California. In the last century, a lot of our water management system was built for what I call yield, and that is to generate new water, generate supplies of water for businesses and farms and people. Our next century, we’re going to need flexibility because we don’t really have a great handle yet on how things are going to change or what the changes are going to be. We know that things are getting warmer. And, we know with warmer temperatures that the variability in our precipitation is going to be more extreme. And so, flexibility is what we’re going to need. And that’s what the Sites Reservoir provides.

Jerry Brown: What’s our timeline? We are on a track to have this project built within the next decade. For the next approximately 12 months, we’re working diligently to establish analysis and review and evaluations that are necessary to give to our local state and federal participants to make decisions about their investments. About this time next year, we’re expecting that folks will be making that decision. If everything’s a go, then we would be expeditious in our completion of permits and the other approvals for water rights and things that we need over the course of about two years, which would then put us into a final engineering and construction starting in about 2024 and completing the construction of the project and having it operational by 2030.

Jim Morris: That will wrap up this episode. Thanks so much to our interviewees, Mary Wells, Fritz Durst, Tim Quinn, and Jerry Brown. You can find out more at, including listening to past episodes. And we appreciate your comments and questions. There’s also excellent information at Thanks for listening.