New Dam Planned In California

Good news—in a currently dam adverse state—from the San Jose Mercury News.

An excerpt.

“A plan to build a huge new $1.1 billion dam and reservoir near Pacheco Pass in southeastern Santa Clara County is taking a significant step forward with the release of hundreds of pages of environmental studies.

“The project, which would be the first new large dam built anywhere in the Bay Area since Los Vaqueros Reservoir in Contra Costa County in 1998, grew out of California’s recent five-year drought.

“Environmentalists have raised concerns about the project’s costs, and the fact that it would submerge 1,245 acres of oak woodlands on the north side of Highway 152 near Casa de Fruta — an area equal to about 943 football fields.

“But the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a San Jose government agency that provides water to 1.9 million Silicon Valley residents, says the reservoir is needed to store more water as insurance against California’s next drought.

“It will improve our water supply reliability,” said Linda LeZotte, chairwoman of the water district, which is proposing the project. “One of the things I heard most from people during the drought was ‘why don’t you have more storage capacity?’”

“Two weeks ago, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released a 327-page draft environmental impact study that includes details of the Pacheco project. The agency, along with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, has scheduled a public meeting to discuss the project and the environmental study at 6 p.m. Monday at the Gilroy Library, 350 W. Sixth Street, in Gilroy.

“The water district hopes to begin construction in 2024. It would take 475 construction workers five years to complete the project working 24 hours, 7 days a week, according to the new environmental study.

“Under the proposal, the water district would replace a small, existing dam and reservoir on the site.

“The existing reservoir was built on the North Fork of Pacheco Creek in 1939 behind a 100-foot earthen dam now badly in need of costly repairs. It holds only 5,500 acre-feet of water, while the new reservoir would hold more than 23 times as much — or 140,000 acre feet. By comparison, the largest reservoir now in Santa Clara County, Anderson Reservoir, has a maximum capacity of 90,000 acre feet. An acre foot is 325,851 gallons, or an acre of land a foot deep in water, roughly the amount that an average California family of five uses in a year.

“The new dam would be 319 feet tall. The district would take water it now stores in nearby San Luis Reservoir and pipe it into the new reservoir, filling it during wet years.

“District officials say that the project also would have environmental benefits. It would provide a more regular supply of water downstream for endangered steel head trout, they note. And, they say, it would offer better flood protection to people living along Pacheco Creek and the Pajaro River.

“It also would allow the agency to store more water in wet years to reduce shortage in dry years. Specifically, district officials say, the project would help fix a long-running problem at nearby San Luis Reservoir, the massive inland sea in Merced County where the Santa Clara Valley Water District stores some water that comes from the Delta.”

Retrieved August 12, 2019 from


About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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