By Director Nai Hsueh, representative for District 5
Like many of you, I am entering the new year with a sense of hope that better days are ahead in our global fight against COVID-19.
Despite the enormous challenges faced by our nation, I am proud of all that Valley Water accomplished locally last year during a public health crisis. I had the privilege of serving as Chairperson of the Valley Water Board of Directors in 2020, which was an incredibly challenging year for many in our community.
Our entire organization responded to crisis after crisis to make sure Valley Water continuously provided Santa Clara County residents and businesses with a reliable supply of safe, clean drinking water. Valley Water employees worked around the clock in our most critical and vital business operations, both onsite and in the field, to provide safe, clean water to our community.
Our agency also progressed on various projects designed to reduce flood risk to our communities and protect and restore our environment.
Here is a look at some of our many accomplishments from 2020.
- In November, voters in Santa Clara County overwhelmingly approved Measure S, a renewal of Valley Water’s Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program (Safe, Clean Water Program). Measure S received 75% of votes cast, well above the two-thirds needed to pass. I’d like to thank the voters for their support and recognize the 21,000-plus community members who provided feedback as Valley Water evaluated ways to improve the program. The Safe, Clean Water Program funds will continue to provide approximately $45.5 million annually for local projects that deliver safe, clean water, natural flood protection, and environmental stewardship to all the communities we serve.
- Valley Water made significant progress in our work to strengthen Anderson Dam so it can safely withstand a large earthquake. Valley Water gradually lowered the water levels in Anderson Reservoir to 3% of its capacity. This action was in response to an order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reduce the risk to the public should Anderson Dam fail during a major earthquake. In the next few months, Valley Water will begin building a larger outlet tunnel, which will increase the amount of water that can be released from Anderson by five times. This new tunnel will allow Valley Water greater control over water levels in the reservoir.
- In August, a team of Valley Water biologists rescued federally threatened Central California Coast Steelhead from Coyote Creek and relocated them to a more suitable environment in the Coyote watershed. Valley Water relocated these fish before lowering the water level in Anderson Reservoir.
- In a year where countless community members called for an end to racial injustice, inequality and discrimination, my fellow board members and I approved a resolution in September to adopt policies that uphold Valley Water’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, equity and environmental justice. The resolution reaffirmed our organization’s commitment to the fair treatment of all races, cultures, ethnicities, socio-economic classes, genders, gender identity and sexual orientation; and affirms that diversity, equity, inclusiveness, and respect are core values of the agency. The purpose and intent of the resolution is to establish Valley Water’s response to individual and systematic racism and its commitment in taking meaningful action, internally and externally, to address the impacts of prejudice, abuse of power, racial bias, gender or gender identity bias, racism and barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion.
- The public health crisis also caused Valley Water to suspend in-person engagements with the community for much of 2020. But we quickly implemented virtual platforms to allow the community to attend board and public meetings and participate in programs such as our infrastructure tours and online education classes. While we look forward to once again meeting with you in person, these virtual events allow us to remain connected to the communities we serve.
Despite the unprecedented challenges, 2020 was a year of significant progress. I look forward to continuing that progress in 2021 as the representative of District 5.