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November 29, 2022

Valley Water negotiates to buy homes for Anderson Dam project

Properties on Hoot Owl Way are subject to sliding, sources say

Valley Water, the water district that serves Santa Clara County, is in negotiations to purchase at least nine homes in east Morgan Hill as part of its Anderson Dam seismic retrofit project, according to the district.

The homes are located on the 17500 block of Hoot Owl Way, within the Holiday Lake Estates neighborhood. All nine homes line the shore of Anderson Reservoir, which has been almost completely empty since Valley Water drained it in 2020 so crews could begin rebuilding the dam and infrastructure. 

The land on which the homes sit is subject to sliding or moving. Valley Water spokesperson Matt Keller noted that part of the district’s goal in the Anderson Dam seismic retrofit project is to “help stabilize these areas,” and may do so by purchasing the properties.

“Several houses located around the rim of the Anderson Reservoir were built on historic landslides, which can continue to move,” Keller said. “These areas are subject to movement during the normal operation of the reservoir.”

He added the district is “exploring a number of mitigation measures”—including buying the properties—to address the potential for the land to slide or move.

Keller noted that Valley Water has been “actively monitoring” areas around the rim of Anderson Reservoir since the east Morgan Hill water body was drained to 3% capacity in December 2020, but to date have not “registered any significant movement due to current construction.”

At least one resident on Hoot Owl Way disagrees, as he pointed to sections of the home’s driveway and an embankment above the residence that have cracked and shown other movement since the reservoir was drained.

Keller said he couldn’t offer details on the potential property purchases because the negotiations with the owners are ongoing. An Aug. 9 Valley Water Board of Directors meeting closed session agenda item on the topic states the purpose of the behind-closed-doors discussion is for “Setting Negotiation Parameters for Price and Terms of Payment for Purchase, Sale, or Exchange of Property Interest.”

The item lists nine property parcel numbers, which match those on the 17500 block of Hoot Owl Way, according to the Santa Clara County Assessor’s Office.

This newspaper has been unable to contact the owners of any of the residential properties.

Valley Water began planning for the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit project in 2009, after state authorities determined the dam would not withstand a major earthquake, and the crest of the dam could slump in such an event—leaving Morgan Hill underwater within minutes.

Upon further study, the local water district determined that the interior of the earthen dam could liquefy in the event of a significant earthquake on the Calaveras fault, which is about 1.2 miles from Anderson Dam.

In the years since, water district officials have been planning for the project and conducted an environmental study for the proposal to modernize Anderson Dam. With the reservoir almost fully drained, construction started last year on the retrofit project and is expected to last until at least 2031.

During that time, Anderson Reservoir will remain almost fully empty, and thus closed for recreation and public use.

The total cost of the Anderson Dam project is about $576 million.

Anderson Reservoir is Valley Water’s largest reservoir, with a capacity of about 90,000 acre-feet of water.

Michael Moore
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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