A channel leading to the Butterfield Drainage Basin contained running water from recent storms Jan. 16. Photo: Michael Moore

The City of Morgan Hill is in the process of applying for two “drought relief” grants that could increase the city’s water storage capacity and improve flood protection on the south side of town. 

According to a city staff report presented at the Jan. 12 council meeting, the city is requesting up to $6 million from the State of California for a two-part project: a new 850,000-gallon water storage tank near East Dunne Avenue; and modifications to the Butterfield Channel Drainage Basin to allow groundwater recharge during inclement weather events. 

The water tank would be located just past Flaming Oak Lane on East Dunne. The Butterfield basin is located in the area of Railroad, Maple and Seymour avenues. 

The $6 million grant request would cover 84% of the total cost of the project, according to a city staff report. The city could use its water impact fund or water fund to pay for the remainder of the cost. 

The city council on Jan. 12 approved city staff’s request to begin the grant application process, and adopted resolutions authorizing the acceptance and expenditure of the funds if the city wins the grant. The item was approved as part of the council’s consent calendar. 

The city is requesting the grant funds from a pool of money allocated to the California Department of Water Resources to award grants for drought relief efforts, according to city staff. “Since the city is currently pursuing new infrastructure projects in response to the drought, applying for state funds makes sense and, if awarded, will enable the city to make these investments without impacting local water rates,” says the city staff report. 

The proposed East Dunne water reservoir “is intended to meet the current and future storage requirements for the city,” says the staff report. “It is also intended to provide additional water supply for emergency response on the eastern side of the city.”

Potential modifications to the Butterfield Drainage Basin are only in the staff evaluation phase, according to city staff. These include the conversion of the 96-acre detention basin “to increase stormwater retention in an effort to enhance groundwater recharge during rainfall events,” says the staff report. The effort could also improve flood protection. 

The staff report noted that after further evaluation in the coming weeks, the city may determine that a grant request is not possible for the Butterfield project. 

The city won’t know if it will receive the grant funds until March, at the earliest, according to city staff. 

Despite an unseasonably wet winter that has brought repeating, flood-inducing bomb cyclone and atmospheric river storms, experts say California’s drought is not over. About 71% of California was experiencing “severe” drought on Jan. 11, dropping to 46% the following day, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System. 

“That designation is based on a long list of complex metrics, including soil moisture, water shortages, levels of streams and lakes, snow cover and runoff,” a Jan. 13 story on calmatters.org reported. “The storms also come at a time when scientists are predicting a long-term shift toward a warmer, drier climate.”

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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