Opposition grows to Santa Clara Valley Water District's plans for a dam

A lawsuit filed against Santa Clara Valley Water District now has two more plaintiffs. The groups say they’re against the proposed Pacheco Dam because they believe it will destroy the environment and sacred land.  

The Stop the Pacheco Dam Coalition filed the lawsuit back in June, claiming Valley Water is trying to avoid following state guidelines before building the dam. Now the Sierra Club and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band say they agree with the coalition and are joining the lawsuit.  

Valley Water says the Pacheco Reservoir Expansion Project is a long-term investment that will reduce water shortages during droughts and protect the drinking water supply. But those who oppose the project say Valley Water hasn’t properly analyzed the environmental impact of the dam.   

"All we’re trying to say is they must follow that process the same as any other development approvals that are given," said Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band   

The California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, requires an environmental impact report before any project begins and the developers must diminish the negative impact the project may have on the environment.  

"Most of those sites have not been tested and what we want to do is make sure that there are no remains of our ancestors there, make sure there are no artifacts," Lopez said.   

The coalition says the project includes over 200 drilling sites and 50 test pits in the Diablo Range. After joining the lawsuit, the Sierra Club said, in part: "Valley water should not get a free pass to dig up this irreplaceable landscape, especially without proper environmental review and mitigation. Valley Water should be pursuing lower cost alternatives with fewer environmental impacts to provide needed water supplies." 

"Just the loss of habitat, and the impact on the river. There’s steel head salmon there that’ll be impacted, I know that. There’s a lot of sensitive species back there," Lopez said.   

Valley Water’s website says it has already laid out five dam alternatives in public forums to meet CEQA requirements. The site also says Valley Water is still considering not expanding the dam at all. 

KTVU reached out to Valley Water for a response and haven't heard back from them yet.