Lawsuit filed towards $2.5 billion dam challenge deliberate for Santa Clara County

Critics of plans to construct an enormous new reservoir in Santa Clara County close to Pacheco Move have filed a lawsuit towards the proposed $2.5 billion challenge, presenting a brand new hurdle for what could be the biggest reservoir constructed within the Bay Space in additional than 20 years.

The group, referred to as the Cease the Pacheco Dam Coalition and made up of environmentalists and landowners whose rural ranchland property could be flooded, sued the Santa Clara Valley Water District in Santa Clara County Superior Court docket earlier this month.

Within the go well with, opponents allege that the water district, a authorities company primarily based in San Jose, violated state legislation when it determined to not conduct environmental research to measure how upcoming drilling, boring and different geological exams will have an effect on delicate crops, wildlife and archaeological websites on the rugged panorama the place the dam is deliberate simply south of Henry W. Coe State Park.

“It is a very wild place. The North Fork of Pacheco Creek is filled with uncommon flora and wildlife. It’s pristine. It’s habitat for endangered species. I’ve seen eagles down there,” mentioned Osha Meserve, a Sacramento lawyer representing the dam opponents.

On Tuesday, the water district, often known as Valley Water, issued a press release saying it has not violated the legislation.

“Valley Water has complied with all environmental necessities for this work and can proceed to take action for the size of this challenge,” mentioned Matt Keller, a district spokesman.

The geological work in query would require contractors to spend eight to 17 months drilling 226 borings and digging 57 check pits, as much as 20 ft deep on varied properties, together with a number of non-public ranches that may be flooded by the dam. Vans, trailers, heavy gear and helicopters would want to make a whole lot of journeys over the panorama, the lawsuit notes.

The lawsuit says that the water district violated CEQA — the California Environmental High quality Act — a legislation signed by former Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970 that requires detailed research of main building initiatives. It’s asking a choose to order the district to do the research and add them to a draft environmental affect report the district launched final November.

The extra research might probably take a yr or extra.

The district’s plan requires constructing a 320-foot-high earthen dam on the North Fork of Pacheco Creek within the rugged canyons about 2 miles north of Freeway 152.

Development would begin in 2025 and end in 2032. The reservoir would submerge 1,367 acres and have a 35-mile shoreline.

The brand new reservoir would maintain 141,000 acre ft of water, changing the small reservoir there now that was in-built 1939. The brand new Pacheco reservoir — 23 occasions larger — could be constructed upstream.

It will be the biggest new reservoir constructed within the Bay Space since 1998 when the Contra Costa Water District constructed Los Vaqueros Reservoir in japanese Contra Costa County. It will additionally rank because the fourth largest reservoir within the Bay Space, behind Lake Berryessa in Napa County, Lake Sonoma in Sonoma County and Los Vaqueros.

The district hopes to take water it now shops close by within the huge San Luis Reservoir and pipe it to a brand new Pacheco reservoir, filling it throughout moist years.

“We entered this winter in a drought emergency,” mentioned John Varela, the district’s appearing chairman, at a public listening to on the challenge Jan. 13. “Rising our potential to retailer water in moist winters to make use of throughout droughts is significant to the area, particularly in gentle of the truth that local weather change is already leading to extra frequent, extra extreme droughts.”

District officers say that the challenge would additionally present a extra common provide of water downstream for endangered steelhead trout.

The challenge acquired an enormous increase in 2018 when the administration of former Gov. Jerry Brown awarded it $485 million from Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion water bond handed by voters in 2014. The district met a key deadline for the state funding when it launched its draft environmental affect report for the challenge in November.

But it surely has run into large issues with value overruns. In 2017, the district estimated the challenge would value about $800 million. The next yr, the value jumped to $969 million, then $1.3 billion by 2020. In January 2021, the district introduced the associated fee had doubled once more to $2.5 billion after preliminary geological research discovered rock within the space was unstable — a discovering that geologists had famous 20 years earlier when the water district was thought-about, after which dropped, the concept.

In latest months, the value dipped to $2.3 billion after design revisions, however is at the moment again to $2.5 billion, district officers mentioned Tuesday.

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