Cost of expansion has risen from $1.3 billion in 2017 to $2.5 billion


By Staff Report

The first few months of this rainfall season were below average across California, with drought  conditions evident statewide. Although the Golden State received a much-needed soaking in late January, moderate drought conditions remain across the state and in Santa Clara County.

To that end, Valley Water is preparing for future wet and dry years through various projects and  programs, including the proposed expansion of Pacheco Reservoir in southern Santa Clara County.

A partnership with the San Benito County Water District and Pacheco Pass Water District, the Pacheco project will increase the reservoir’s capacity from 5,500 acre-feet to up to 140,000 acre-feet, enough water to supply up to 1.4 million residents for one year during an emergency.

When Valley Water moved forward with the Pacheco Project’s planning in 2017, California was coming out of one of the worst droughts on record. Valley Water board members viewed the potential expansion of Pacheco Reservoir as a way to reduce the frequency and severity of water shortages during future droughts.

The multi-benefit project will improve habitat for the South-Central California Coast Steelhead, a threatened fish population, according to John Varela, who represents Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy in District 1 on the board. The expanded reservoir will also reduce flood risk along Pacheco Creek and downstream Pajaro River by holding back peak flows, offering some relief to communities in Dunneville, Watsonville and Pajaro.

“We know there are challenges with a project of this size,” Varela said. “Recently, Valley Water staff informed the  board that the project’s estimated cost rose from about $1.3 billion to $2.5 billion. Our agency is exploring four different dam alternatives, each with a different cost estimate. One of the options could  reduce the cost by about $400 million.

Valley Water staff is working on the project’s environmental impact report, which will allow the agency to share the environmental impacts, gather more information on the proposed project, and  include feedback from the public.

On Feb. 24 and 25, Valley Water is hosting virtual public scoping meetings and open houses to allow the  public and agencies an opportunity to learn more about the scope and content of the environmental  impact report.

Valley Water will stream the meetings on Facebook Live: www.facebook.com/SCVWD. Recordings of the  meetings will be posted on the Valley Water website.

The engagement with the public will not end with these virtual scoping meetings. The agency will continue an active dialogue and engagement with the community. They plan on releasing a community  input survey in the coming weeks to gather public feedback on the overall project. The survey will be  posted on their website and promoted on their social media platforms.

Feedback from the community will help guide the board to make an informed decision as they evaluate this project.

For more details about the public scoping meetings, please visit  www.valleywater.org/pachecoexpansion.  For further information, contact your elected district representative: [email protected][email protected], or [email protected]

Robert Airoldi