From WILL PARRISH
In roughly three weeks, the relatively slim percentage of Californians who vote in the Nov. 2014 election will decide on a politically contentious (is there any other kind of water politics in California?) $7.5 billion state general obligation bond, Proposition 1, entitled “THE State Water Bond” [emphasis added]. A creature of the dominant political response to California’s panic-strickening drought, the bond issue would provide a greater level of financing for new water projects than any in the state’s recent history.
Although the bond includes funding for everything from bike trails to water recycling to wetlands restoration, its most pivotal line item is $2.7 billion that would be allocated to expanded water storage. That likely means dams, and it especially likely means help with construction of the Sites Reservoir, a vast new facility just east of the Mendocino National Forest, about 10 miles west of the town of Maxwell. The bond singles it out for special mention.
Sites Reservoir would involve two large dams on the mainstem Sacramento River, each around 310 feet high. The water would be ferried through the Tehama-Colusa and Glen-Colusa canals, as well as a third canal that would be built specifically for the project and originate north of Colusa. All of this liquid gold would thereby be plumbed into the Antelope Valley, drowning an estimated 14,000 acres of grassland, oak woodland, chaparral, riparian habitat, vernal pools, and wetlands (including 19 acres of rare alkali wetlands). The water bond, it should be noted, would only cover part of the cost of constructing these enormous new installations. Sites would be California’s first massive water infrastructure project since the 1982 completion of Lake Sonoma, a huge reservoir that is nevertheless less than one-fifth as large, which dams the headwaters of Dry Creek: a tributary of the Russian River that runs off the opposite slope of the Navarro River’s headwaters southeast of Anderson Valley. As of this writing, the state water bond enjoys strong support, especially from the state’s political leaders: Only one state legislator voted against placing the bond on the ballot.