The state Assembly last week “overwhelmingly” passed a bill that will expedite the construction of Anderson Dam’s seismic retrofit.
AB 3005, dubbed the Expedited Dam Safety for Silicon Valley Act, was authored by Assemblyman Robert Rivas, a Democrat whose district spans Santa Clara and San Benito counties. In the June 8 assembly vote, the bill received strong bipartisan support for “important changes in law that will help facilitate the expedited and expert construction of the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project in Santa Clara County,” reads an announcement sent to reporters from from Rivas’ office.
“Today’s overwhelming vote of support on the Assembly floor underscores the critical importance of expediting the Anderson Dam project,” Rivas said. “The clock is ticking on a catastrophic dam failure in case of a large earthquake, and we can’t allow bureaucratic delay to increase risks to public safety, water security, and environmental protections.”
In its current condition, Anderson Dam—located in northeast Morgan Hill—would not withstand an earthquake of magnitude 7.25 on the nearby Calaveras fault, nor of magnitude 6.6 on the Coyote Creek fault located directly beneath the dam.
Valley Water, the water district that serves Santa Clara Valley, made these determinations about the dam’s seismic integrity in 2009.
A breach of the dam at full capacity could have catastrophic consequences, flooding an area encompassing more than 30 northwest through San Jose to San Francisco Bay and communities en route, and more than 40 miles southeast to Monterey Bay—including Morgan Hill, Gilroy and Watsonville.
Anderson Dam was built in 1950 and is owned by Valley Water.
“The Anderson Dam project will not only protect Silicon Valley and South County from the devastation of a dam failure, but it also will create thousands of good-paying jobs that are so badly needed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Valley Water Board Member John Varela, who represents the district where Anderson Dam is located. “Getting this project construction underway as quickly as possible is Valley Water’s top priority, and that’s what AB 3005 will do.”
It is estimated that the $576 million Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit project will help create 5,400 jobs, beginning in 2021, reads Rivas’ press release.
For most of the last decade, Valley Water has been ordered by federal regulators to keep the water level at Anderson Reservoir below two-thirds full in order to reduce the risk of catastrophic flooding in the event of a dam failure.
Earlier this year, however, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered Valley Water to completely drain Anderson Reservoir by the end of 2020.
AB 3005 will now move to the state Senate for further consideration.