LOS BANOS (AP) — Federal officials have proposed a $360 million expansion and seismic upgrade for one of California's largest reservoirs that serves as a key water source for Central Valley farmers.
The expansion proposal by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation would increase the height of the 305-foot-high earthen dam at the San Luis Reservoir by 20 feet, creating another 130,000 acre-feet of storage capacity.
The reservoir, which lies between Gilroy and Los Banos, can currently hold more than 2 million acre-feet of water.
The expansion would also include seismic work on the dam built in 1967, and upgrades to dikes and other infrastructure around the reservoir.
Chris White, general manager of the Central California Irrigation District, said the reservoir currently fills to capacity during wet years, losing excess water.
The increased capacity would capture more water for storage, and help bolster supply to residential customers and farms in dry years.
"In those years where they can capture a little more water, having a place to put it would be a good thing," White told the newspaper.
In dry years like the past two, farmers who rely on water deliveries from the State Water Project have been getting only a fraction of their allotment, forcing many to pump from underground aquifers.
The increased use of groundwater raises concerns about subsidence, where the ground sinks as underground water is removed.
The bureau is accepting public comment on the plan until Jan. 17.