The Del Puerto Water District last week released the final Environmental Impact Report for the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir Project.

The proposed project involves construction of a reservoir in the foothills west of Interstate 5 and Patterson to store water for use in dry years for ag irrigation, groundwater recharge and wildlife refuges. The reservoir capacity would be 82,000 acre-feet within an 800-acre footprint.

The report is the next step in securing reliable water supplies to support the local and regional economy on the West Side, according to a news release. The report documents the potential environmental impacts from project construction and operations and the measures to avoid or minimize the impacts.

“We are very pleased to achieve this milestone for water supplies that will support our regional agricultural economy,” said Anthea Hansen, general manager of the Del Puerto Water District. “This project will store water supplies for droughts and protect the city of Patterson from flooding, among other benefits.”

The final Environmental Impact Report responds to 84 comments received from agencies and the public regarding the project. “We have worked hard to address the concerns in the community and plan a safe, reliable water storage reservoir,” said Chris White, executive director of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Authority (Exchange Contractors). “This project will also help stabilize groundwater supplies for many of the communities on the West Side, including Patterson, Gustine, Newman, Los Banos and Firebaugh.”

The project planning and environmental review have been funded by the Del Puerto Water District and the Exchange Contractors, two local public water agencies.

Additional support for the environmental review, facilities design, and feasibility studies was provided through the 2016 federal Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.

“We are grateful to Congressman Harder for his ongoing support for the project and our efforts to improve water supply reliability for the region,” Hansen noted. While much work remains to be done, she added, “having a local project named in federal legislation is definitely a win for the valley.”

A number of agencies will be involved in the permitting process, Hansen told Mattos Newspapers, and regulatory oversight will be ongoing to ensure the dam is safe and well-maintained.

In addition to completing the permitting process, she said, proponents must also finalize the engineering and design aspects of the project and develop a financing plan.

“Certifying the EIR is a big step, but we have a long way to go,” Hansen commented.

 Construction is expected to begin in 2022 and take six years. The project would begin filling in 2028.

The Del Puerto Water District Board of Directors will consider final certification of the EIR when it convenes via Zoom at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21.

The final EIR may be found on the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir website.