Feds order Anderson Reservoir to be drained

Federal regulators have ordered the Santa Clara Valley Water District to completely drain the county's largest reservoir, Anderson Reservoir located east of Morgan Hill by October. They cite the potential risk that the dam could collapse if there is an earthquake.

Anderson Reservoir sits behind a 250-foot man-made dam between Morgan Hill and San Jose and is instrumental in the South Bay’s water supply. It holds enough water for tens of thousands of people. 

“I’m curious as to why now, who made the decision and what are they going to do to fix the problems they are going to cause,” said Morgan Hill Resident Manuel Orozco.

The federal government ordered to drain the reservoir because the dam doesn't meet current earthquake standards and could collapse.

“Apparently the dam is pretty old and in an event of a pretty big earthquake there'd be major damage to the community,” said Morgan Hill Resident Suzy Buck.

The district previously limited the reservoir's capacity to 45 percent. However, in a letter from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the commission wrote, “We do not concur that the current reservoir restriction appropriately balances the competing issues at this project.”

The water district issued a statement that said, “With these new requirements, we expect to see an impact to groundwater basins that are replenished with water released from Anderson Reservoir. Staff is already exploring other sources of water.”

There are now concerns for the wildlife if Coyote Creek dries up and a drought as the Bay Area faces a dry February.

“There’s been water restrictions so I’m guessing those will stay in place,” said Buck. “We will see what happens.”

Patrick Ferraro is a former water district board member for 23 years and is not too worried. He said the county has built a resilient water system with various sources of water to last a few years. 

“We have three aqueducts, we have a full groundwater basin here, we have another remote groundwater basin in Kern County,” said Ferraro. 

He said replacing the dam was inevitable.

“This is just an acceleration of something that was already in motion but in slow motion,” said Ferraro. “It just speeds it up.”

The water district said its priority now is to design and build a large outlet pipe so it can provide greater control over the water levels and for public safety.