New Dams? Bad Idea

Sep 21, 2023

As multiple California fish species teeter on the brink of extinction, and both commercial and recreational fisheries face imminent collapse, a new project threatens to push them over the edge.

The proposed Sites dams project—a series of diversions and dams in the Sacramento Valley—would divert more water from the Sacramento River, reducing fresh water flowing to San Francisco Bay.

But the rivers that feed into the Bay-Delta are dangerously over-tapped, and at a terrible price. Endangered species, like spring-run Chinook salmon and longfin smelt, are becoming rarer, fisheries are collapsing, and tribes who have strong cultural and spiritual ties to the waterways that flow to San Francisco Bay are suffering. The reduced river flow is also causing more frequent and severe toxic algae blooms and concentrating water pollution.

The Sites project would exacerbate all of these problems.

Instead of building massive new dams and draining what little fresh water remains in our struggling rivers, California should focus on how we use our existing water resources. We can maximize our supply and meet the state’s water needs with water recycling, stormwater capture, and water conservation.

Baykeeper and our partners at the Bay Institute, the Golden State Salmon Association, and Defenders of Wildlife, recently filed a legal opposition to the Sites project that included a detailed assessment of the irreparable harm it is poised to cause. We urged the State Water Board to reject the application and safeguard water quality, fisheries, and wildlife.

The science is clear, and it tells us the effect the Sites project will have on fish, wildlife, and waters throughout the Bay’s watershed. We will continue to give voice to the science and demand that agencies stop this destructive project in its tracks.

Dry hills where the proposed Sites project would be located

Pictured: Baykeeper drone still of the area proposed for the Sites project

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