Major water storage project streamlined

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California Construction News staff writer

A new infrastructure streamlining law could speed up the Sites Reservoir project and prevent months or years of CEQA litigation delays, according to the governor’s office.

If ultimately approved, the project would capture water during wet seasons and store it for use during drier seasons – holding up to 1.5 million acre-feet of water – enough for 3 million households’ yearly usage.

The project has been awarded $46.75 million in early funding from the state and the total project cost is estimated at $4 billion.

SB 149 allows the Governor to certify qualifying infrastructure projects for judicial streamlining under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Courts must decide CEQA challenges to certified projects within 270 days to the extent feasible – saving months or even years of litigation delays after a project has already passed environmental review, while still allowing legal challenges to be heard.

Sites Reservoir is critical to California’s Water Supply Strategy and meeting a goal of expanding above and below ground water storage capacity by 4 million acre feet.

“We’re cutting red tape to build more faster,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “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.”

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