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Garamendi Bill Unlocks Federal Financing for Western Water Storage

May 6, 2021
Press Release
Low-interest federal financing for off-stream Sites Reservoir Project

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA-03) introduced legislation (H.R. 2979) making low-interest federal financing available for reservoir and drought resiliency projects, with Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA-04) as the original cosponsor.

This bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2979) would amend the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) of 2014 to make public water projects like the off-stream Sites Reservoir Project eligible for low-interest, longer-term federal loans from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Specifically, the bill would allow water projects with longer useful life spans, like Sites Reservoir, to receive federal WIFIA financing for 55-year loan terms instead of the current 35-year loan terms, thereby lowering the capital costs for such projects.

“This bipartisan legislation would unlock nearly $6 billion in low-interest federal financing for western water storage projects, including funds to build the off-stream Sites Reservoir in California’s northern Sacramento Valley. We need all the federal and state resources we can get to meet California’s future water supply needs and achieve a truly drought-resilient water system capable of responding to the impacts of climate change. This critical legislation offers smart federal investment to upgrade California’s water supply by building new off-stream reservoirs necessitated by climate change,” said Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA-03).

“Federal water projects play a significant role in our way of life throughout Central Washington. Removing barriers to securing federal financing for the much-needed repair and maintenance of these projects is imperative,” said Rep. Newhouse (R-WA-04). “This bill will help our local water managers and operators finance long-term projects, enabling us to ensure long-term success for all who rely on this infrastructure for clean water and irrigation in rural communities.”

“This is a critically important piece of legislation that will help drive down the cost of essential water infrastructure investments nationwide, including Sites Reservoir,” said Fritz Durst, Chair of Sites Project Authority Board of Directors.  “This legislation will help make the Sites Project even more affordable, particularly for local, Sacramento Valley agriculture, significantly reducing the cost of water.  The annual debt service savings generated by the bill will also help spur additional local investments in other essential water infrastructure projects nationwide.”

In February 2019, Congressman Garamendi introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R.1435) directing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to expedite the necessary federal feasibility study for the Sites Reservoir Project. That federal feasibility study was completed in December 2020. To date, Congressman Garamendi has helped secure more than $1.2 billion in state and federal funding to build this off-stream reservoir.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2019 scorecard gave California’s drinking water and dam infrastructure grades of C and C-, respectively. In California alone, it’s estimated that over $2.5 billion is needed to repair dams and nearly $51 billion is needed to provide reliable water supplies. Approximately $11.5 billion is available each year in low-interest federal financing from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WIFIA loan program.

National Endorsements: American Society of Civil Engineers, Family Farm Alliance, National Water Resources Association, American Public Works Association

California Endorsements: Northern California Water Association, Sites Project Authority