Stop Pacheco Dam Coalition Reveals Alarming Economic and Environmental Consequences of the New Pacheco Dam Project

SAN JOSE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#stoppachecodam–The Stop Pacheco Dam Coalition has gained support from taxpayers and environmental groups in their effort to expose the realities, both economic and environmental, of the new Pacheco Dam project being considered by the California Water Commission on December 15.

The upcoming meeting will review the feasibility of the project for purposes of receiving Proposition 1 Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) funding. The coalition advocates for protection of statewide taxpayers and Santa Clara County ratepayers, along with protection of the environment and working ranchlands. The coalition believes the new Pacheco Dam would pose too great a risk financially, without solving our water challenges.

The Dam proponent, Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water), has admitted that this project would not guarantee water storage during longer drought periods or offer reliable water supplies. In addition to its inability to provide supplies in droughts, the new dam in the rural southeast corner of Santa Clara County would be environmentally damaging and does not meet the public benefit funding requirements under Proposition 1.

Since the initial 2017 WSIP application, the cost of Pacheco Dam has more than doubled, putting the current cost estimate at $2.12 billion. The project’s steadily rising costs and minimal water supply benefits raise major concerns in terms of the economic ramifications for already burdened ratepayers. Already, San Jose residents’ overall cost of living is estimated to be 215% higher than the U.S. average. The State Water Resource Control Board recently found local water rates were among the most unaffordable in the state. “Rates are expected to rise substantially due to the costs of the Pacheco project. Financing this dam will more than triple Valley Water’s debt.,” explained Dr. Jeffrey Michael, PhD, Economics. “There are far less expensive water storage and conservation projects that ought to be prioritized instead.”

In his recent Report submitted to the California Water Commission, Dr. Michael explained that Valley Water’s WSIP application for the Pacheco Dam did not follow established standards for valuing public benefits and that the ecosystem benefits claimed by Valley Water were not justified. “When the costs of building the dam doubled, Valley Water claims the alleged environmental benefits of the dam doubled too. It’s ridiculous and wrong.” Overall, Dr. Michael found that the project benefits are likely being overestimated by a factor of 7 or more, taking away the justification for state WSIP funding.

While the ecosystem benefits of the new Dam are uncertain, the environmental costs from “inundating approximately 1,500 acres of land that supports sensitive natural communities and numerous special-status species are massive,” explained Independent Biological Resources Consultant, Scott Cashen, M.S.

Inundated lands in the new Dam footprint announced earlier this year include a portion of Henry Coe State Park as well as the Nature Conservancy’s Romero Ranch conservation easement. In addition, new roads, a transmission line, and a pipeline would eliminate, fragment, and degrade an extensive amount of habitat outside of the inundation zone.

The Pacheco Dam project simply does not meet feasibility standards and should be removed from the list of options for projects available for Prop 1 funds. The Stop the Pacheco Dam coalition is encouraging those opposed to state Proposition 1 funding for the Pacheco Dam to submit comments to the California Water Commission prior to December 15.


Stop the Pacheco Dam Project

Jason Scalese

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