Sites Reservoir is a surefire recipe to further harm already hurting salmon runs

Golden State Salmon Association’s Scott Artis responds to Governor Newsom’s certification of the Sites Reservoir Project for judicial streamlining.

Last week the Governor announced actions to “build more, faster” through the streamlining of the Sites Reservoir, which is a surefire recipe to further harm already hurting salmon runs, faster. We are in the midst of an historic salmon season closure with low returns of fall-run Chinook and the Spring-run are on the brink of extinction. How many more signs do we need in a single year before we streamline the protection of the salmon fishery and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports?  

It’s apparent the survival of California salmon is not one of the biggest challenges being addressed by this Administration. The State continues to double down on expediting projects that could have major impacts on salmon and the fishing industry but fails to implement actions that are truly needed – science-based flow and temperature standards that would help turn around the collapse of salmon, listed species, and Bay-Delta ecosystem, and ensure the functioning of the Central Valley’s rivers and tributaries. 

The Prop 1 funding the Sites Project is seeking is limited to funding projects with clear environmental benefits. Instead, the Sites Reservoir project will reduce inflow to the Bay-Delta estuary in the key winter and spring months. That uncaptured Delta inflow and outflow is what sustains Delta fisheries, which have already been severely diminished, especially due to State water policies during droughts.  

Governor’s Office of Planning and Research Press Release

California Accelerates Critical Infrastructure as Part of Governor Newsom’s Actions to Build More, Faster

Governor Newsom’s certification of the Sites Reservoir project is part of a new CEQA streamlining program administered by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research

SACRAMENTO – Governor Newsom today certified the Sites Reservoir Project for judicial streamlining, marking a significant step in California’s ongoing efforts to expedite critical infrastructure projects that will deliver clean energy, ensure safe drinking water, and modernize the state’s transportation system. As part of SB 149 administrated by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), the Sites Reservoir Project will benefit from CEQA streamlining limiting the length of time the project’s environmental impact report can be challenged in court.

Infrastructure streamlining legislation, including SB 149 enacted earlier this year, is part of Governor Newsom’s actions to leverage available federal investment – projected at $180 billion over the next ten years – to build and retrofit infrastructure that advances the state’s goals. SB 149 establishes the Infrastructure Streamlining Program at OPR under which an expanded list of eligible projects – including energy infrastructure, semiconductor, or microelectronic, transportation-related, and water-related infrastructure projects – can now receive streamlined judicial review if they are challenged in court under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Without streamlining, more contentious CEQA litigation can take upwards of 3-5 years before a decision is reached in California’s Court of Appeals.

“We’re cutting red tape to build more, faster. These are projects that will address our state’s biggest challenges, and the Sites Reservoir is fully representative of that goal – making sure Californians have access to clean drinking water and making sure we’re more resilient against future droughts,” said Governor Newsom.

“California will make historic investments in infrastructure through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Inflation Reduction Act, and CHIPS and Science Act, as well as those investments reflected in California’s record-setting budgets over the last few years,” said Samuel Assefa, Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. “SB 149 and the Governor’s certification of the Sites Reservoir Project today put us on a path to take full advantage of these investments to build infrastructure that will benefit generations of Californians to come.”

Infrastructure projects benefitting from SB 149 are part of California’s efforts to accelerate new transportation, clean-energy, and water-related facilities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect Californians from the effects of climate change, and create good-paying jobs. Streamlining projects that meet the state’s high environmental and labor standards can help projects successfully compete for available federal investments and catalyze projects aligned with the State’s environmental, climate, and labor goals.

The Sites Reservoir Project, an offshore reservoir designed to capture water during wetter months and store it for use during drier periods, addresses the critical need to manage water supplies when other sources are scarce. As part the streamlining of the Sites Reservoir project under SB 149, OPR reviewed nearly 1,000 public comment letters from organizations and members of the public. Upon certification by the Governor, the Sites project will be sent to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee for review and final approval.