The decades-long effort to build the Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley just got a few tweaks as it steers into a new era.

“We believe we have a better project today than we did last year,” said Jerry Brown, the new executive director of the project, in a townhall meeting on Tuesday. “It reflects the input of the participants, NGOs, landowners and other stakeholders, like regulatory agencies and elected officials.”

The latest proposal would trim the budget by $2 billion and the storage capacity by about 300,000 acre-feet, according to Brown. Sites would use existing canals for conveyance rather than build new pipelines. The plan also eliminates a pumped-storage system for generating and storing energy during high flow events. He said the business case for that element of the project "just didn't pencil out."

Along with adding more critical storage capacity for the Central Valley Project, another selling point for the reservoir is that it would support environmental flows to the Delta, easing the demand from Shasta and Folsom Dams. This has drawn the attention of the Bureau of Reclamation, as the agency has shown interest in funding such multi-benefit projects, according to Brown.

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“Hopefully, COVID is a short-term issue that we're all dealing with," said Brown, acknowledging the challenging time for agencies to invest in this project. "The project that we're talking about is a 100-year, century-long investment.”