As climate-change induced drought threatens the ecological and economic viability of the state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture just authorized over $449 million to increase flow and reliability of water within California.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (center) and others stand at the proposed site of the Sites Reservoir just funded with over $449 million of Federal backing. Photo: Sites Project
The funding announcement was made jointly by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, three Central Valley Congressman and other dignitaries on November 27. They were standing at where the proposed Sites Reservoir, a key part of the project, will be built in Colusa County, California.
The $449 million will be added to $800 million in California voter-approved bonds for the project. The monies will be used as partial funding for what is estimated at a total cost of $5.1 billion. When finished, the funds will allow construction of a pipeline connecting two canals, which in turn will channel runoff from the Sacramento River to fill the new reservoir. The reservoir will have a capacity of 1.8 million acre-feet.
The monies come not long after Donald Trump came out swinging about “decades of uncoordinated, piecemeal regulatory actions” in California. He pledged he would come up with a better means to “delivery water and power in an efficient, cost-effective way”.
The project itself is a direct result of work conducted by the White House-created Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity formed in April 2017. It had the charter to find ways to do more for agriculture and economic prosperity in rural communities.
The project financing comes from the USDA’s Communities Facilities direct loan program, which can be connected with grants to lower the cost of infrastructure projects significantly, depending on the income of those affected. With that program, communities of less than 5,000 people in size, and median income at or below 60% of the state nonmetropolitan median household income, can get 75% of a project’s cost paid for directly by the Federal government. The program supports communities up to 20,000 people in size, with grant money decreasing as incomes go up and the local population increases.
In announcing the new funding, Agriculture Secretary Perdue said that, “By working in a collaborative fashion with our state and local partners, we can balance the needs of everyone involved and ensure that the productivity of water in the Sacramento Valley is around for generations of farmers and ranchers to come.”