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Our Historic Dam Needs a Retrofit Now

Water has been central to the development of our region’s agricultural economy—from orchards, row crops and vineyards to cattle ranches, chicken and egg farms, and nurseries. As with other natural resources, water is precious, finite, and must be conserved.

Our water management practices have greatly evolved since the first primitive wells were drilled and “sack dams” were fashioned from burlap and earth. We’ve learned that pumping without recharging groundwater leads to shortages and sinkholes.

In 1950, Anderson Dam was built across Coyote Creek in the foothills east of Morgan Hill. The seven-mile waterway holds nearly 90,000 acre-feet of water when at capacity, making it larger than all the other county reservoirs combined. The project was led by Leroy Anderson, a key founder of Santa Clara Valley’s first water district (now Valley Water). For Anderson and others, it was the culmination of over 20 years of pioneering efforts to store winter floodwaters by creating reservoirs.

Fast forward to 2020, and after five decades of wear and tear, Anderson Dam is in dire need of a seismic retrofit. Advances in engineering and geotechnical surveys have shown us that a significant earthquake within a mile of the Dam could cause it to fail, leading to devastating flooding for miles around. Valley Water has put forth a plan for the work and a bill is moving through the state senate to fast-track the project.

Let’s hope it passes and Leroy Anderson’s legacy continues.

San Martin resident Connie Ludewig became a water advocate because she cares about access to safe, clean water for everyone in South County. The desire to know more about present-day water challenges and conservation efforts led her to explore the history of water in our region. We were delighted to provide a bit of collaborative support as she researched our most important local water asset: Anderson Dam and Reservoir. Connie and her husband Steve are also members of the Morgan Hill Historical Society.

Read Connie’s article on this topic in Morgan Hill Life.



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