CA Tribal communities organize to stop Sites Reservoir, provide clean water to salmon and the Delta

  • Published on December 2nd, 2021

Tribal activists, drinking water advocates and commercial and subsistence fishers are asking the public to stand with them in the fight for both the Trinity and Sacramento River salmon by supporting a California state process to restore flows in California’s largest rivers, and by fighting a proposal for a twenty square mile reservoir, the Sites Reservoir, according to a press release from Save California Salmon.

CA Tribal communities organize to stop Sites Reservoir, provide clean water to salmon and the DeltaBy Dan Bacher

They are asking the public to attend an online Virtual Rally and Public Testimony Training on December 6th, a state hearing on the Sacramento, San Joaquin and Bay Delta flows on the December 8th at 9 am and Sites Reservoir related public hearings on December 15th at 6 pm and on December 16th at 9 am, and the California Water Commission meeting on public funding for Sites Reservoir on December 15th at 9 am.

“Up to 98% of the Sacramento River winter run salmon died this summer due to climate related drought and over-allocation of water to industrial farmers,” stated Sheridan Enomoto from Save California Salmon. “Despite this, the State  is considering letting California’s largest water users build a 15 million acre foot reservoir that would divert much more water from the Sacramento River, and possibly the Trinity River also. They are also considering continuing to put off a plan to restore flows to the Sacramento River and Bay Delta in favor of voluntary regulation even though lack of river and carry over storage protection  has gotten us into this crisis.”

The community members also say at 13,200 acres  Sites Reservoir would be one of the largest reservoirs in California and would include new water diversions from the Sacramento River that could also adversely impact the Trinity River. Since the plan includes water storage for the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that delivers federal water project water to Westlands Water District, the major diverter of Trinity River water, Sites could cause the Sacramento and Shasta and Trinity Reservoirs to be overdrafted. The Trinity is the largest tributary to the ailing Klamath River and it’s coldest water source.

“We have been working to restore flows to help water quality, and to bring salmon back over the dams and back to native lands  for salmon survival and Tribal people,” explained Pit River Tribal member Morning Star Gali. “California is losing the salmon and our clean water. This is an issue of justice. We already have over a 1000 reservoirs, and more water allocated than exists in California. An environmentally destructive private reservoir being built in an area that is important to native people is  a step in the wrong direction.”

Sites Reservoir Plan (click for a larger image)

Sacramento River advocates also say the Sites Reservoir will be used to divert much more Northern California water to Southern California agricultural land through the controversial Delta tunnel. “This is a major water grab that would leave our Northern California rivers and drinking water supplies high and dry for water redistribution to Southern California,” explained Enomoto.

The California State Water Resources Control Board is meeting on the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan, which deals with water flows into the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers and thus the Bay Deltaand San Francisco bay on Dec. 8th. Information on how to testify is at: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/board_info/agendas/2021/dec/12_7-8_2021_agenda.pdf

The Sites Authority will have Sites Reservoir public hearings on Dec. 15th at 6pm and Dec 16th. Information on commenting will be at:  https://sitesproject.org/environmental-review. The California Water Commission will decide whether to provide over $815,000,000 of taxpayer money to the private reservoir on Dec. 15th at 9am. Information on how to comment will be at: https://cwc.ca.gov/Meetings/All-Meetings/2021/Meeting-of-the-California-Water-Commission-Dec-15-2021

To register for the informational webinar and public testimony hearing on December 6th at 6pm go to Californiasalmon.org or https://tinyurl.com/SaveSacSalmon. More information and talking points are at californiasalmon.org, @calisalmon on twitter or @california rivers on Instagram.

About the Author

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento who focuses on California's water issues, a healthy environment for the salmon fishery of the Northwest, and the attempts by big agriculture and big oil to hog all the water.

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