State and South Bay leaders on Wednesday officially launched a 10-year reconstruction project at Anderson Dam, shutting down the area’s largest reservoir in the midst of a drought.
When full, Anderson – the largest reservoir in Santa Clara County – holds almost 90,000 acre feet of water. But it hasn’t been at full capacity for years after an inspection showed a high risk of failure from a large earthquake, which got Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and others started on the construction project.
"There’d be a wall of water into Morgan Hill in under 14 minutes," she said. "It would be catastrophic for Morgan Hill, but it would also flood all the way up to Palo Alto and all the way into Monterey Bay."
The launch of the project was gratifying to Morgan Hill and neighboring South Bay communities.
"It’s a tremendous relief," Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine said. "I mean, every time the earth shakes, people kind of look and go, 'OK, is there gonna be some water coming my way?'"
Draining Anderson also meant various agencies rescuing wildlife.
"A few months ago the water district actually relocated some salmon and did some things to align with those efforts so that it would not slow this project down," San Jose Councilwoman Maya Esparza said.
But the biggest ongoing concern is replacing the lost water in the midst of another drought.
"So we purchased water for this year and then a few years from now," Santa Clara Valley Water District board chair Tony Estremera said. "That’s what we tried to do. Same time, we’ve been looking at storage outside the county."
The preparations to deal with the drought will be continuing even as the Anderson Dam project progresses.