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August 15, 2020

Bill to speed up dam project passes committee

Feds say Valley Water must drain Anderson Reservoir this fall

A state assembly bill that would fast-track the seismic retrofitting of Anderson Dam in northeast Morgan Hill unanimously passed committee last week.

The Expedited Dam Safety for Silicon Valley Act on May 15 passed the Assembly’s Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. The bill was authored by Assemblymember Robert Rivas and is sponsored by Valley Water, the flood protection and water management agency for Santa Clara Valley.

“Valley Water’s highest priority is to reduce the dam safety risk and move as quickly as possible to reconstruct Anderson Dam,” said Nai Hsueh, Chair of Valley Water’s board of directors. “The bipartisan vote supporting AB 3005 in committee today shows the legislature wants to move this critical life safety project forward.”

If the bill passes the full legislature and gains the governor’s signature, it will shorten the timeline to start and complete a comprehensive seismic retrofitting of Anderson Dam. In February, federal authorities demanded that the local district start to drain Anderson Reservoir by Oct. 1, citing earthquake dangers. Also in February, Rivas introduced the bill to speed up the draining of the reservoir and reconstruction of the dam.

Valley Water scheduled a community meeting on the fast-tracked project timeline for May 28, from 5:30 to 7:30pm. District staff will discuss the directive from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to drain the reservoir by Oct. 1. Discussion will also center on the district’s plan to begin construction on a low-level, larger outlet tunnel as soon as possible.

Several years ago, state and federal dam safety regulators determined that Anderson Dam would not withstand a major earthquake along the Calaveras Fault. Valley Water has thus kept the reservoir’s water level less than one-third full to reduce the risk of flooding if such an earthquake occurs.

The Anderson Dam retrofit project is designed to withstand major earthquakes. Valley Water staff have estimated the project will cost about $550 million.

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