The California Water Commission on Tuesday, July 24 approved $484.55 million to dramatically expand the Pacheco Reservoir in southeast Santa Clara County for drinking water reserves and improved protections for steelhead salmon.
The money comes from the state’s Proposition 1 approved by California voters, and represents the full amount sought by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
“We are elated that our proposal to expand Pacheco Reservoir was viewed so favorably by the commission,” said water district board chairman Richard P. Santos. “We are also pleased that the commission has approved our request for early funding of $24.2 million. Given these approvals, we can proceed with the next steps in completing environmental documents and permit applications without delay.”
Completion of the new reservoir project is more than a decade away, according to its own timetable.
The Prop. 1 monies will provide half of the estimated $969 million cost of the project, which could be completed in 2029, with construction beginning in 2024 following public hearings on an environmental impact report and a feasibility study.
Prop. 1 was approved by nearly three-quarters of San Benito and Santa Clara county voters in 2014. The funding would come from the $2.7 billion Water Storage Investment Program, part of California’s Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, a $7.5 billion bond passed by voters.
The Pacheco Reservoir project received the highest ranking among eight projects submitted to the commission for consideration this week. Another $1.12 billion was approved for four other projects across the state.
The Santa Clara County project would establish a new dam and expanded reservoir on the North Fork of Pacheco Creek that could hold 141,000 acre-feet of water, a substantial increase from the 6,000-acre-foot capacity of the existing reservoir. Constructed in 1939 and used for groundwater recharge, the reservoir is located about 13 miles southwest of San Luis Reservoir, off Highway 152, near Casa de Fruta.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District would also have to find the remaining 50 percent of the project cost, from federal sources and from the district’s own resources and ratepayers.
“Santa Clara Valley Water District and our project partners, San Benito County Water District and Pacheco Pass Water District, will pursue federal funds,” Santos said in a statement.
The remainder would be paid through local water rates “over several decades,” he said.
The water district said the project would expand Pacheco Reservoir’s storage capacity to provide for increased emergency water supplies, improved water quality and ecosystem benefits throughout the region and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
“This reservoir would serve as an insurance investment to support a secure water supply for our future,” said Santos in the statement. “Today’s good news portends well for Pacheco’s delivery of investment value to the public and environment.”
The water district describes the project’s potential benefits as “vast,” including the following:
- Increase suitable habitat in Pacheco Creek for the federally threatened South Central California Coast steelhead
- Develop water supplies for the environmental needs of wildlife refuges to support habitat management in the delta watershed
- Reduce flood risks for communities along Pacheco Creek and the Pajaro River as it flows through Watsonville
- Improve water quality, reducing taste and odor problems that result from seasonal algae blooms in San Luis Reservoir and cause Santa Clara Valley Water District operators to curtail deliveries from this source
- Provide an emergency water supply to Santa Clara and San Benito counties
- Increase reliability of imported water supplies to Santa Clara and San Benito counties
- Provide additional water for groundwater recharge, benefiting agricultural water users downstream of the new dam
- Increase operational flexibility of water supplies at San Luis Reservoir and throughout Santa Clara County
- Improve opportunities for water transfers through San Luis Reservoir
The Santa Clara Valley Water District manages an integrated water resources system that includes the supply of clean, safe water, flood protection and stewardship of streams on behalf of Santa Clara County’s more than 1.9 million residents.
The district manages 10 dams and surface water reservoirs, three water treatment plants, an advanced recycled water purification center, a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, nearly 400 acres of groundwater recharge ponds and more than 275 miles of streams.
It provides wholesale water and groundwater management services to local municipalities and private water retailers that deliver drinking water directly to homes and businesses in Santa Clara County.
For more information, visit https://www.valleywater.org/project-updates/dam-reservoir-projects/pacheco-reservoir-expansion-project-proposed.