California Water Commission Votes to Advance Two Environmentally Destructive Water Projects


December 16, 2021

Brandon Dawson, (830) 309-1092


California Water Commission Votes to Advance Two Enviromentally Destructive Water Projects

SACRAMENTO— Yesterday, the California Water Commission voted to advance two water storage projects that will have devastating consequences for California’s environment. After hours of public comment, many of which opposed advancing the two projects, the Commission decided both projects - Sites Reservoir and Pacheco Reservoir -  maintained their eligibility to receive public funding under Proposition 1. 

Proposition 1, passed by voters in 2014, created an innovative approach of investing bond funds based on the public benefits achieved by individual projects. In 2018, the Commision determined that eight projects were eligible for funds, including four surface storage projects and four groundwater projects.

Sites Reservoir is a proposal to construct a new water storage facility in Northern California. The project would divert water from the already overdrafted Sacramento River. It will also flood a 13,200 acre area which contains valuable wetlands, oak woodland habitat, and 24 endangered species. The Commission unanimously voted that Sites would remain eligible for $800 million of public funding. 

The Pacheco Reservoir Expansion project is a proposal to enlarge the storage capacity of the existing reservoir, located in Santa Clara County. Pacheco Reservoir Expansion would significantly enlarge the footprint of the existing reservoir, flooding an additional 1,500 acres that include areas of the ecologically important Henry Coe State Park. With another unanimous vote, the Commission voted to allow Pacheco to remain eligible for up to $500 million of Prop 1 funding.

The Commission advanced both projects over the objections of dozens of members of the public representing environmental justice, conservation, and fishing groups, as well as California Tribal representatives. The Commission was presented with a petition created by Save California Salmon - containing nearly 50,000 signatures - urging them to reject the projects.

In response, Brandon Dawson, director of Sierra Club California, issued the following statement: 

“The Commission’s actions today will harm California communities, ecosystems, lands, and wildlife. These two destructive projects provide marginal public benefits but massive destruction, such as depleting salmon populations and flooding precious California lands. The climate crisis and its impacts on California water supplies demand that we move away from large storage projects like these, and start investing in local and sustainable water conservation, efficiency, and recycling programs and technology.  

Even more egregious than the Commission’s vote was its rejection of the public comments opposing the projects, and its treatment of tribal representatives who will be adversely affected by the projects. Tribal members continuously voiced concerns about the lack of tribal consultation during the meeting’s public comment portion, and were resoundingly ignored. Every member of the public deserves the time and opportunity to voice their opinion without fear of being shut down.”    


Sierra Club California is the legislative and regulatory arm of Sierra Club’s 13 local chapters in California, representing nearly half a million members and supporters.