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Governor Gavin Newsom announced on November 6 that he certified Sites Reservoir as an eligible infrastructure project to be accelerated under SB 149 (Caballero), which the governor signed into law this year to address the protracted California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuits oftentimes used to stop or delay infrastructure projects in California.
The governor said, “We’re cutting red tape to build more, faster.  These are projects that will address our state’s biggest challenges faster, 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.”
Ag Council President Emily Rooney said, “Ag Council thanks Governor Newsom for taking action to certify Sites Reservoir under the judicial streamlining process. We look forward to a future where this important infrastructure project helps improve our water supply and boost our resiliency.”
Ag Council supported passage of SB 149 earlier in 2023 as part of the governor’s infrastructure package to provide tools to expeditiously advance desperately needed water supply and storage projects in California, as well as energy and transportation infrastructure projects.
The streamlined process under SB 149 establishes a 270-day limit in which CEQA lawsuits are to conclude, if feasible.  This includes appeals.  SB 149 also shortens the administrative record by eliminating internal communications on non-substantive materials.
Once the project is completed, Sites Reservoir will have the capacity to hold up to 1.5-million-acre feet of water.  The off-stream facility will capture and store stormwater flows for use during dry years to benefit people, farms, businesses and the environment.  It is located about 10 miles west of Maxwell in Northern California.  The project is currently in the permitting process at the State Water Resources Control Board.
SB 149 is not a guarantee that water or other infrastructure projects will move forward rapidly, given the complexities of CEQA.  However, the new law is an important step in the right direction to address litigation obstacles and focus on more expeditiously developing needed water infrastructure in California, especially to build resiliency and prepare for the weather and climate events we face, including drought and flood.
Please click HERE to read Governor Newsom’s statement.