Seeing Sites

By Jennifer Harrison

Have you heard of Sites? If you’re like me, the answer until recently would have been no. Although I was born and raised in California and have spent over a decade in the Sacramento Valley, Sites was as foreign to me as, say, Darkhan (hint: a city in Mongolia).

As for Sites- where is it? Why does this place matter? The short answer: Sites could be paramount to water stability in the Sacramento Valley and California. For the long answer, I took a trip to Sites to see the location of the prospective Sites Reservoir, which is a key part of the Water Bond on the November Ballot.

Sites is in the Antelope Valley in the unincorporated community of Colusa County. It sits nine- miles west of Maxwell (population about 1,000), in the heart of rice country and midway down the Sacramento Valley. The typography of the Sites is key – it’s in a naturally occurring basin well suited for a reservoir, according to Thad Bettner, General Manager of the Glenn –Colusa Irrigation District.

Standing on the dry, golden hills of the Sites location one can understand how this idea materialized. Sites would be an off-stream reservoir (meaning it’s not located on a streambed) and its primary purpose would be pumping and storing flood water from the Sacramento River. Sites would have about twice the capacity as Folsom Reservoir. The potential is to provide up to 500,000 acre-feet of water and offer an adequate water supply when needed for fish, cities and farms. Experts say it would be “water insurance” if you will, to make water available for the Sacramento Valley and other parts of the state.

Talk of Sites Reservoir has been happening since the 1960s-and as a Californian, I’m glad I finally set my sights on Sites.


Jennifer Harrison is a reporter/writer specializing in food, agriculture, health and lifestyle stories. Her work has appeared on PBS, Discovery Health, HGTV, DIY Network, in magazines and more. Born and raised in California she has seen much of the state while “on assignment.” In her spare time you’ll find her in the bleachers watching her three daughters’ softball games, running or trying to read too many books at once.