Tribal Representatives Voice Opposition to Sites Reservoir, Lack of Consultation

Article from Daily Kos.

Dan Bacher
Saturday December 18, 2021 · 2:02 PM EST

The California Water Commission on December 15 voted to approve the Commission staff’s findings to maintain Sites Reservoir’s Project’s eligibility for $800 million of project subsidies from Proposition 1, despite a multitude of comments by California Tribal representatives and environmental advocates opposing the project because of the devastating impact that they say it would have fish, water, the environment.

If built, the Sites Reservoir would be situated on the west side of the Sacramento Valley, approximately 10 miles west of Maxwell, Calif., in Glenn and Colusa Counties.

The Commission also voted to move forward with funding for Del Puerto Reservoir and the expansion of Pacheco Reservoir, despite robust opposition from conservation and environmental justice groups.

The proposed Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir would be located in Del Puerto Canyon in the Coast Range foothills west of Patterson and south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, just west of I-5.

Pacheco Reservoir is located in the Diablo Range, formed by a dam on the north fork of Pacheco Creek, a tributary of the Pajaro River. The expansion project would boost Pacheco Reservoir’s operational capacity from 5,500 acre-feet to up to 140,000 acre-feet.

The votes on Sites, Del Puerto Canyon and Pacheco mean that these projects are considered “environmentally and financially feasible” and continue to remain eligible for Proposition 1 funding, which is around $2.7 billion, according to Friends of the River.

Commission Chair Teresa Alvarado of San Jose, the Regional Vice President-South Bay/Central Coast for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, ran the meeting. Environmental justice and conservation groups and Tribal leaders and were not only disgusted with the decision, but upset with the treatment of California Tribal leaders at the meeting.

“We’re utterly appalled by how Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Vice Chair Malissa Tayaba was treated,” said Sierra Club California organizer Caty Wagner. “Earlier in the comments, they said that they would call on Tribal representatives first. Eventually, they cut commenters to 2 minutes rather than 3.”

As Vice Chair Tayaba was speaking about how her Tribe has not been adequately consulted in the process, Commission Chair Alvarado spoke over her several times and then cut her off.

The Tribe’s TEK program manager, Krystal Moreno, then addressed the situation, noting how Vice Chair Tayaba’s position is akin to the Vice President of the United States, and finished reading Tayaba’s comment.

“This was incredibly disrespectful and appalling. There was no apology or even acknowledgment by the Commission about what just happened. I am floored by that behavior,” Wagner stated.

Below is the comment that Tayaba delivered at the meeting. She was forced to stop her commentary at the section, where, ironically, she was going to talk about the lack of Tribal Consultation, as required by state and federal law, on the Sites Project:

“Good Morning Commissioners, thank you for the opportunity to speak. I am Malissa Tayaba, Vice Chair of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. The Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians derives from both Miwok and Nisenan lineage with major village sites in Sacramento, the Delta and beyond. The Tribe’s ancestral homelands span seven counties, including Sutter, Yuba, Yolo, Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer & Amador. The interconnectivity of the land, the waterways, the people, the plants, animals and resources is deep, reciprocal, and timeless. The ancestral waterways are the life blood of the Tribe and include the Sacramento River, American River, Feather River, Bear River, Consumnes River and the watersheds therein.

The Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians were originally displaced by colonization, the mission system, disease brought by the fur trade, the arrival of John Sutter, the genocidal violence of the gold rush, the political violence of California statehood andanti-Indian laws and policies. Delta ancestral homelands were lost to reclamation and colonization in the nineteenth century, and we have been kept out by private land ownership and state and federal water resource development in the Delta region.

The Delta is a diminishing resource that once stretched at least as far north as the confluence of the Sacramento and Feather Rivers in Sutter County (near the Nisenan village of Wallok). It is being further diminished, along with its cultural and traditional resources that tribes have utilized from the Delta for food, medicine, transportation, shelter, clothing, ceremony and traditional lifeways from the beginning of time. Additional diversions from the Sacramento River watershed will exacerbate an already damaged and diminishing Delta ecosystem and estuary, and our tribe’s ties to our homelands.

I am here today because your decisions regarding the Sites Reservoir have a direct impact on the health, life expectancy, and future of our tribe. Our waterways must be managed wholistically.

After several more speakers, TEK Project Leader Krystal Moreno was able to read the final paragraph of Tayaba’s presentation.

Before reading it, Moreno said, “I was originally not going to make a statement , but after witnessing how inappropriately my boss and Vice-Chair of the Tribe was treated, I felt a statement was necessary. Earlier in the meeting you were going to take tribal representatives first, I believe, and provide them time to speak. You cut off Malissa Tayaba, who again is Vice Chair of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians. She is equivalent to the Vice President of the United States. She should have been allowed time to complete her statement. As a result, I will complete it for her.”

Moreno then read the last paragraph regarding the lack of Tribal consultation on plans to fund and build Sites Reservoir:

“In addition, true and meaningful tribal consultation has not occurred. In fact, my tribe was not consulted at all. In President Biden’s November 12th memo heads of federal agencies and departments, he emphasizes the importance and intentions of advancing equity for indigenous people with commitments to ensure that federal agencies conduct ‘regular, meaningful and ROBUST consultation’ with tribes. To date, consultation efforts have been neither regular, meaningful, nor robust. We urge the commission to not move forward with this project. Thank You.”

Here is the link to the recording. Tayaba’s statement is at 2:41:22 and Moreno’s statement is at 2:48:24:

Members of other California Tribes also indicated their opposition to the Sites Reservoir project because of the impact that it would have on salmon populations and native people.

“The rivers are barely surviving,” said Margo Robbins, a member of the Yurok Tribe on the Klamath River. “They can barely sustain life as it is. I would hope that you would take into consideration the huge detriment that this will be to the salmon and native people.”

“We have been working to restore flows to help water quality, and to bring salmon back over the dams and back to native lands for salmon survival and Tribal people,” explained Pit River Tribal member Morning Star Gali regarding Sites Reservoir in a Save California Salmon press release. “California is losing the salmon and our clean water. This is an issue of justice. We already have over a 1000 reservoirs, and more water allocated than exists in California. An environmentally destructive private reservoir being built in an area that is important to native people is a step in the wrong direction.”

The massive opposition to the projects by one commenter after another was underlined by the submission to the Commission of a petition created by Save California Salmon – containing nearly 50,000 signatures – urging them to reject the projects.

Friends of the River (FOR), a Sacramento-based nonprofit that has been engaged in tracking and opposing Proposition 1 funding for surface water storage projects since 2014, was also disappointed with the results of the commission meeting.

“After having to deal with essentially the same destructive projects for decades, I found the Commission’s ‘rubber stamp’ approach during the meeting particularly concerning,” noted Ron Stork, FOR’s Senior Policy Advocate. “The Commission was given the authority under Proposition 1 to do a rigorous technical review of consequential water projects, and especially in the case of Del Puerto Canyon Dam, it was clear they were not willing to do so.”

In response to the Commission votes, Brandon Dawson, director of Sierra Club California, issued the following statement:

“The Commission’s actions today will harm California communities, ecosystems, lands, and wildlife. These two destructive projects provide marginal public benefits but massive destruction, such as depleting salmon populations and flooding precious California lands. The climate crisis and its impacts on California water supplies demand that we move away from large storage projects like these, and start investing in local and sustainable water conservation, efficiency, and recycling programs and technology.

Even more egregious than the Commission’s vote was its rejection of the public comments opposing the projects, and its treatment of tribal representatives who will be adversely affected by the projects. Tribal members continuously voiced concerns about the lack of tribal consultation during the meeting’s public comment portion, and were resoundingly ignored. Every member of the public deserves the time and opportunity to voice their opinion without fear of being shut down.”

The 13,200 acres Sites Reservoir would include new water diversions from the Sacramento River that could also impact the Trinity River, the largest tributary of the Klamath River, according to Save California Salmon.

The Yurok, Hoopa Valley, Karuk and other tribes have depended on the salmon and other fish as part of their livelihood and culture for many thousands of years, but the salmon populations have collapsed dramatically in recent years. The plan includes water storage for the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that delivers CVP water to Westlands Water District, the major diverter of Trinity River water

Sites could cause the Sacramento River and Shasta and Trinity Reservoirs to be overdrafted. Sites Reservoir would be used to divert more Northern California water to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness for export crops like almonds through the Delta Tunnel when what is needed to restore fish populations is more water for fish, not less.

For the past three years, no Delta smelt, once the most abundant fish in the entire Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, have been found in California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fall Midwater Trawl survey. Two other surveys on the Delta have turned up similar results for the Delta smelt, with only 1 smelt captured between the two surveys:…

“This year’s results indicate that Delta smelt are likely virtually extinct in the wild,” said California Sportfishing Protection Alliance fishery biologist Tom Cannon.

The virtual extinction of Delta smelt in the wild is part of a greater ecosystem crash caused by massive water exports to corporate agribusiness interests in the San Joaquin Valley, combined with toxics, declining water quality and invasive species in the Delta.

The diversion and export of water for Central Valley agribusiness interests during a drought has also had a huge impact on imperiled Sacramento River populations, just as it has had on driving the Delta smelt to become virtually extinct in the wild.

This year up to 98 percent of winter-run Chinook salmon juveniles in the Sacramento River perished as water was delivered to water contractors as the Bureau of Reclamation violated their own plan to only kill 80 percent of winter run salmon every day but one through the diversion season.

Not only did nearly all of the winter-run Chinook salmon juveniles perish due to warm water conditions in the Sacramento River this year, but the majority of adult spring-run Chinook salmon on Butte Creek – over 14,500 of an estimated 18,000 fish – before spawning this year, due to an outbreak of disease in low and warm water conditions.

It is worth noting again that Commission Chair Teresa Alvarado of San Jose is Regional Vice President-South Bay/Central Coast for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the company that is largely responsible for the fish kill by not releasing enough cold water from its hydroelectric facilities on Butte Creek to keep the majority of salmon alive until they spawned.

After the Commission’s votes moving the three project forward, FOR’s Resilient Rivers Director Ashley Overhouse, emphasized, “While it was a setback, this is not the end.”

“The Commission noted that ‘this is just the beginning’ and there is ‘plenty of time before funding allocations.’ We agree, and believe these projects will not hold up under more rigorous scrutiny. Friends of the River and our allies will continue to fight for healthy rivers and sustainable water solutions like water recycling and groundwater recharge in 2022. We must continue to engage with the Commission and other stakeholders to ensure our state achieves a resilient water future in the face of climate change,” Overhouse concluded.

Comments and questions, including comments on California Water Commission meeting agenda items, can be submitted via email to

Background: Water Commission Member Biographies

Teresa Alvarado, of San Jose, is Regional Vice President-South Bay/Central Coast for Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Teresa previously served as Chief of Local Impact at SPUR, deputy administrative officer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District, and as a State Senate President pro Tempore appointee to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission where she chaired the committee dedicated to developing the agency’s first Bay Plan Amendment on Environmental Justice and Social Equity. Ms. Alvarado holds a Master of Science degree in civil and environmental engineering from Tufts University, a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental studies and a Minor degree in technical writing from San Jose State University. She is an American Leadership Forum-Silicon Valley Senior Fellow and a founding member of the Board of Directors of Parks California.

Matthew Swanson, of Turlock, is a California farmer and CEO of Associated Feed, Virtus Nutrition, and Nutrius Products, manufacturers of organic, non-GMO, and conventional feed products serving the dairy, cattle, swine, and poultry industries. His other entrepreneurial endeavors include leading the development of software and application of data analytics to improve agricultural and environmental efficiencies and help achieve net zero carbon dairy farms. Mr. Swanson also serves as Chairman of Riser House Entertainment, a full-service label and music publishing company in Nashville, Tennessee.

Samantha Arthur, of Sacramento, has been Working Lands Program Director at Audubon California since 2019, where she has held multiple positions since 2014, including Conservation Project Director and Conservation Project Manager. She was a Strategic Planning and Policy Intern at the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts from 2013 to 2014 and a Land Protection Specialist at Big Sur Land Trust from 2010 to 2012. Arthur earned a Master of Science degree in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from Whitman College.

Daniel Curtin, of Sacramento, has served as director for the California Conference of Carpenters since 2001 and previously held the same position from 1992 to 1999. From 1999 to 2001, he served as chief deputy director for the Department of Industrial Relations. Prior to that, Curtin was a legislative advocate for the California Conference of Carpenters. He serves on the State Compensation Insurance Fund Board of Directors, the Economic Development Commission, and the Industrial Welfare Commission.

Kimberly Gallagher, of Davis, has been Farm Operations Manager at Erdman Farms since 2014 and Owner and Operator of Gallagher Farming Company since 2009. She was a Science Teacher for the Davis Unified School District from 2012 to 2014 and an Independent Study Teacher for the Elk Grove Unified School District from 2004 to 2011. Gallagher is a director of the Colusa Glenn Subwatershed Program and the California Rice Commission. She earned a Master of Arts degree in Christian leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Saint Mary’s College.

Alex Makler, of Berkeley, is Senior Vice President, West for Calpine Corporation, a large independent power producer with generation facilities throughout the United States and Canada. He joined Calpine in 1999 as Associate Counsel and has had roles of increasing responsibility in legal and business management functions. He has substantial experience in infrastructure project development, construction, environmental permitting, Federal and state-level electricity and gas regulation, commercial contracting, and finance. Prior to Calpine, Makler worked for private law firms in New York, Houston, and San Francisco. He has both a J.D. and a B.A. (Political Economy) from the University of California, Berkeley.

Jose Solorio, of Santa Ana, was raised in a farmworker family in the Central Valley and knows that water nourishes our bodies, preserves our environment and our fuels our economy. He has been a Government Affairs Officer at Moulton Niguel Water District since 2018. In prior roles, Commissioner Solorio was a Santa Ana City Council Member from 2016 to 2020 and from 2000 to 2006, Senior Policy Advisor at Nossaman LLP from 2014 to 2017 and a California State Assemblymember for the 69th District from 2006 to 2012. Solorio earned a Master of Public Policy degree in government and business policy from Harvard University and a Bachelor’s degree from UC Irvine.
Fern Steiner, of San Diego, has been an Attorney at Smith, Steiner, Vanderpool APC since 1987 and a Shareholder there since 1993. She was an Attorney at Richard D. Prochazka APC from 1984 to 1987 and an Attorney at Karmel and Rosenfeld from 1977 to 1984. Steiner is a member of the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors and a trustee for San Diego Youth Services. She also served as director of the Metropolitan Water District from 2009 to 2019. She earned a Juris Doctor degree from John Marshall Law School.

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