South Bay residents fear Anderson Reservoir collapse during big quake

SAN JOSE (KTVU) -- Over 100 people packed a community meeting Wednesday night over growing concerns about the Anderson Reservoir and the potential for catastrophic flooding if the dam were to collapse during a major earthquake.

The residents gathered at the Morgan Hill Community Center to hear an update about the project to upgrade the dam so it could withstand a quake.

An analysis from 2008 found that a major earthquake could cause the 67-year-old dam to fail, potentially flooding nearby Morgan Hill and San Jose.

"It should already be in place,” said Carrie Hightower of Morgan Hill. "They've known about the retrofits needed for many years and they have done nothing about it."

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Hightower lives five miles from the Anderson Reservoir. She knew the dam needed to be retrofitted for seismic safety back in 2012. She said she is more nervous now that it could collapse after this year's heavy rainfall.

"There's still a lot of snow melt out there and the danger is still out there if the rain comes again,” Hightower said.

State and federal regulators have told the water district to limit Anderson Reservoir's water storage to 68 percent of capacity to prevent a catastrophe. This winter, however, the district was unable to meet that limit after drenching rains soaked the Bay Area last winter.

"There were so many storms in February that came back to back, saturated the watershed and the water came coming in faster than we could discharge,” said Katherine Oven, an official with the Santa Clara Valley District.

The $400 million retrofit project was supposed to start in 2018 but has now been delayed to 2020 because of complications with engineering and new faults that were discovered near the dam's foundation.

"I do care about their frustration," said Haman Desai, who works for the district's dam safety unit. "The way to look at this is that it’s better than when we are in construction."

Residents said in light of the Oroville Dam crisis and the historic flooding in San Jose, they hope this project won't face any more setbacks.

"If they had retrofitted the dam and cleaned up the creek, they may not have had this flooding in San Jose," said resident Michael Sordello who lives in Morgan Hill.

District officials said they are preparing environmental documents and pursuing permitting in hopes to start construction as soon as they can.

By KTVU reporter Azenith Smith.

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