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Lawmakers Tour Sites Reservoir Project Area

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MAXWELL -- A dozen lawmakers made the trek to Maxwell, 80 miles north of Sacramento, to find out more about the Sites Reservoir project, which got a boost with the passage of a state water bond.

The 14,000-acre proposed water storage facility could cost a whopping $4 billion and would be the first water storage reservoir built in decades.

The bus tour included a stop along the Sacramento River where excess water would be pumped 15 miles to the reservoir location named after a pioneer era community.

The river was swollen by recent rain storms that required that weirs be opened to prevent flooding.

"This is an excellent time for us to grab flood flows out of the river and store it so we can use it throughout the year," said Assembly Member James Gallagher of Yuba City, who hosted the tour.

The reservoir would hold almost twice the capacity of Folsom Reservoir near Sacramento. Much of the water would be reserved for environmental purposes required by the bond financing. The rest would be used by water agencies throughout the state, some of which have committed to purchasing various amounts of water from the facility.

Critics say the project is not needed and is too expensive. There are also claims that it is just another scheme to transfer water from Northern California to the Central Valley and Southern California.

But Northern California supporters of the project say many of the benefits would be seen in the north, and that there's plenty of water to go around if flood waters can be captured.

"What we're talking about is excess water...it's managing our water supply, not hoarding it, not just letting it go out to sea," said Senator Jim Nielsen of Gerber.

Environmental reviews are yet to come, and final financing needs to be nailed down. If everything is in place it will still be another fiveĀ or 10 years before the reservoir is operational.