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October 22, 2020

Guest view: Valley Water moves closer to lowering Anderson Reservoir

By John Varela

Early next month, Valley Water will take a significant step toward fixing Anderson Dam so it can safely withstand a large earthquake. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered Valley Water to begin lowering water levels in Anderson Reservoir starting Oct. 1. This effort marks the first in a series of activities aimed at seismically retrofitting Anderson Dam to modern-day safety standards. 

Before that work begins, Valley Water is hosting a virtual community meeting on Sept. 17 from 6-8pm where we will present the latest information on the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit project. Please join us via a Zoom video conference (details below) to learn more about the upcoming work and impacts on the neighborhood, the environment and recreational activities. We will also answer as many of your questions as possible. 

To attend the meeting, please visit: valleywater.zoom.us/j/99622557783 

Dial: +1 669 900 9128 

Webinar ID: 996 2255 7783 

We will also stream the meeting on Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/SCVWD.

To submit a question, please email [email protected] or call 408.630.2342 through Sept. 16, and we will do our best to answer them during the meeting. You can also ask questions during the meeting. 

I’d like to thank everyone who attended our first virtual meeting regarding the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project on May 28. A recording of that meeting can be viewed at valleywater.org/anderson-dam-project. 

Valley Water has been very active on this project during the past few months. 

In August, Valley Water biologists rescued more than 70 federally threatened Central California Coast Steelhead from Coyote Creek downstream of Anderson Dam and relocated them to a more suitable environment in the Coyote watershed. 

Our project team continues preparing for the construction of a larger outlet tunnel that will allow us to manage the reservoir level better, and as a result, minimize the risk to public safety. We anticipate construction will begin early next year and last two to three years. 

Valley Water will begin work on retrofitting the dam embankment and spillway once the tunnel is complete. That project is estimated to start in 2024 and will last about seven years. 

Once we begin lowering Anderson Reservoir water levels, we will send that water to our water treatment plants and also discharge it into Coyote Creek, where it can percolate down into the groundwater basin, and also provide environmental benefits. 

Valley Water’s priority is the health and well-being of our community. Strengthening Anderson Dam will help us protect our regional water supply, ensure public safety, and provide environmental benefits. 

The project has also received support from state lawmakers. On Aug. 31, the California Legislature passed a bill that will fast-track state decisions and help ensure expert construction of Anderson Dam. The bill, sponsored by Valley Water and authored by Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), is headed to Gov. Newsom, who we hope will sign the bill very soon. 

I know this has been a challenging time for many of our South County neighbors impacted by the wildfires. To the residents who were affected by these wildfires, our hearts and thoughts are with you. 

I also acknowledge South County residents have waited patiently for the Anderson project to move forward. There will be much to share with you at our meeting and I hope you will join us.

John Varela represents the district that includes South County on the Valley Water Board of Directors. He can be contacted at [email protected] 

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