Motorists zooming along Highway 152 through Pacheco Pass between Gilroy and Los Banos notice an unusual site amid the parched, oak-studded hills: A vast inland sea.
The shimmering body of water, San Luis Reservoir, is 7 miles long and a key part of California’s modern water supply created when President John F. Kennedy pushed a dynamite plunger there in 1962 to kick off its construction. Today water from the massive lake irrigates farmland across the Central Valley and also provides drinking water for Silicon Valley, including San Jose.
Last Friday, a major new construction project started at San Luis — a $1.1 billion plan by the federal government to strengthen the huge earthen dam and raise it 10 feet to reduce the risk of it collapsing in a major earthquake.
But more than earthquake safety work is afoot.
Water officials in increasingly drought-plagued California have been hoping another project can be attached to the seismic upgrade — an effort to build the 382-foot-high dam even higher to expand the size of the reservoir.
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