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California Drought: South Bay Water Officials Vote For Rate Hike To Pay For Infrastructure, Conservation Projects

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- South Bay water officials on Tuesday voted unanimously to greenlight a series of rate hikes to pay for water projects in the region and begin preliminary studies on the contentious Pacheco Dam Project.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District says the 9.1 percent increase for Fiscal Year 2022, "will help pay for emergency water needed this year to meet demand and keep groundwater at normal levels," as well as water conversation programs, expanded recycled water use, and the Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project.

Rate payers can expect to pay $4.30 to $4.82 more per month starting this summer.

The increase will also fund a preliminary environmental impact report on the proposed $2.5 billion Pacheco Dam in the hills east of Gilroy. Water officials say it will store as much water as all the current Santa Clara Valley reservoirs combined.

Mayor Sam Liccardo opposes project, and after Tuesday's vote shared his disappointment tweeting, rate payers and the environment "deserve better," insisting that the proposed dam "won't increase water supply."

At a news conference on Monday, Mayor Liccardo said the dam would be used primarily to store imported water the district buys from other parts of the state and the water can be easily stored elsewhere for a much cheaper cost.

"The cost has tripled and the project is worthless if our focus is on creating new water supply," the mayor said.

In a statement Tuesday, the water board defended the Pacheco Dam Project, saying, "It's important to do our due diligence and move forward with completing the Draft Environmental Impact Report in 2021. This will allow us to decide whether to move forward with the project at a later time based on all the facts."

The Board also voted to implement a one-year Low-Income Residential Water Rate Assistance Program help households with their water bills during the pandemic.

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