Trump Administration Ponies Up $449M for New California Dam

Site of the proposed Sites Reservoir in Colusa County, California. (Sacramento River Preservation Trust)

MAXWELL, Calif. (CN) – In an effort to boost California’s water infrastructure and alleviate the state’s perpetual drought worries, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday his department will spend more than $449 million to help fund projects to increase the reliability and efficiency of the water supply across the state.

Perdue joined Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, three Central Valley congressmen and others in making the announcement at the proposed Sites Reservoir. The $449 million would be used to build a pipeline connecting two canals that will eventually pipe runoff from the Sacramento River to fill the 1.8 million acre-foot reservoir.

In addition to the money pledged by the Trump administration, California will pony up over $800 million in voter-approved bonds for the project. The estimated price tag for the pipeline and reservoir has been pegged at $5.1 billion, and supporters say the project will go a long way toward modernizing California’s water infrastructure and help the state better weather drought.

“Every westerner knows the saying ‘Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting,’ but President Trump, Secretary Perdue and I are trying to make that obsolete,” Zinke said in a statement. “We all share a commitment to storing and delivering water for farmers, families and commercial users in California.”

The announcement of the grant comes a month after President Donald Trump blasted what he called “decades of uncoordinated, piecemeal regulatory actions” in California and vowed to “deliver water and power in an efficient, cost‑effective way.”

In a statement Tuesday, Perdue echoed the president’s words, albeit more diplomatically.

“By working in a collaborative fashion with our state and local partners, we can balance the needs of everyone involved and ensure that the productivity of water in the Sacramento Valley is around for generations of farmers and ranchers to come,” Perdue said.

The visit by Perdue and Zinke follows Trump’s creation of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in April 2017, which the president tasked with finding ways to promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. This past January, Perdue presented the task force’s findings to Trump.

Funding offered by the Trump administration will come from the USDA’s Communities Facilities direct loan program and can be used with grants to cut the cost of infrastructure projects dramatically, depending on household median income and population.

Under the program, communities with fewer than 5,000 people and with a median income at 60 percent of the state nonmetropolitan median household income will see 75 percent of a project’s tab picked up by the government. As population and median income rises, the grant money available decreases.

Only communities with fewer than 20,000 people are eligible for the program.

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