'All risk and no reward': Patterson group fights back against proposed dam

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PATTERSON, Calif. (KTXL) -- Dozens of families in Stanislaus County are fighting against a proposed dam just west of Patterson.

The 800-acre reservoir would mean a portion of Del Puerto Canyon would be underwater.

“Quite frankly, this project is all risk and no reward,” said Patterson resident Chuck Marble.

Volunteers and organizers with the Patterson Progressive Alliance have been working to save Del Puerto Canyon.

"Del Puerto Canyon is a wonderful resource for learning, for education," Marble told FOX40.

On Friday, they asked for signatures and support to oppose the proposed Del Puerto Dam.

"Continually wondering if that dam is gonna break and flood our homes and our community,” said Chuck Marble. “It’s an unwarranted gamble."

“Will just put our city of Patterson in danger and we don’t need a dam built here,” said Maria Rodriguez.

Organizers say the dam would mean a portion of the historic canyon would be lost.

“There are important prehistoric archaeological sites that will be covered and cannot be mitigated,” said David Keller, the former mayor of Patterson.

They also worry a potential construction site would contaminate the air quality.

“How many asthma attacks, how many strokes are worth this project?” said Shivaugn Alves, co-founder of the Patterson Progressive Alliance. “This is only going to produce a small amount of water to help our farmers.”

However, officials with the Del Puerto Water District say building the reservoir is necessary, telling FOX40 the benefits include flood control, improved groundwater conditions and water storage. They sent a statement to FOX40, which reads in part:

We wish to re-iterate that the project would add much-needed water storage capacity on the west side of California's Central Valley, and would also provide other key benefits such as flood control benefits to the downstream area including portions of the City of Patterson, improved groundwater conditions in the region, and possibly provide storage of water that is delivered to the valley's federally designated wildlife refuges. It is common knowledge that our weather patterns have changed, and we feel it is good stewardship of our resources to plan ahead for the opportunities to capture water when it's available so as to minimize impacts during times when it is not. It is through this public process that we hope to bring forward a project that balances the needs of the Westside.

One rancher FOX40 spoke to said the dam is a good idea. She believes because the canyon will be underwater, it will prevent trespassers from coming in and trashing the place.

The farmer also said a new dam would mean access to water during dry years.

“We all support the farmers but this isn’t the right solution for them and this certainly isn’t the right solution for Patterson,” Marble said.

The Water District encourages public comment until Jan. 27, during which time volunteers will continue to push for the dam to be built elsewhere.

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