For the first time since 2020, the lake at Pleasanton's Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area could soon have enough water for people to swim, fish and drive their boats if all continues to go well with recent water-pumping efforts.
The water refill project, which is currently using two diesel-powered water pumps to move water from the Arroyo Del Valle water stream into Shadow Cliffs Lake, came together after the recent winter storms basically ended the year-long drought that plagued lakes and water supplies across California.
"The past several years of drought have left the Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreational Area water level much lower than our community is used to, and we anticipate residents will be happy to see the water level higher this summer," Heather Tiernan, communications manager for the city of Pleasanton, told the Weekly.
The refill project is expected to last until May 31.
Jen Vanya, East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) public information specialist, told the Weekly that the park district is funding the refill project through a drought recovery fund.
"We are hoping to retain enough water to allow recreational swimming, fishing and boating to return to Shadow Cliffs," Vanya said. "These activities have been suspended since 2020 due to COVID-19 and drought."
Zone 7 Water Agency had initially proposed the project to the park district, which operates Shadow Cliffs, according to Olivia Sanwong, EBRPD board director for Ward 5 -- the area that includes Shadow Cliffs.
According to Zone 7's annual report for the sustainable groundwater management program for the 2022 water year, the lake couldn't receive any water last year due to the drought. However, that quickly changed after the onslaught of heavy rains poured down in the Bay Area, refilling several lakes and water supplies.
This led to Sanwong publishing a column early this year on the complexities of water in California and how there is a need for different approaches to water management in order to ensure adequate water supply.
She told the Weekly how California's State Water Project, which works to move and store as much of the surplus water from these storms as possible, made additional untreated water available to contractors such as Zone 7 this past March through what is known as "Article 21 water."
"What Article 21 water is, supplemental non-potable water at cost rates and that cost rate is really important for East Bay Regional parks," Sanwong said. "So we're really paying a much lower rate for this Article 21 water."
She pointed out that while the Shadow Cliffs Lake is a recreational area and doesn't serve as a water supply location, the additional water is being stored there as a sort of spreading ground facility.
According to Sanwong, spreading ground water conservation facilities retain surface water long enough for it to percolate into the soil.
The project broke ground with the first pump beginning to fill up the lake this past Saturday, but Sanwong said that the effort to fill up the lake isn't something that has just been in the works at a Zone 7 and EBRPD level -- she said it's something that she wanted to do ever since she first joined the park district in December, shifting elected offices after 4-1/2 years on the Zone 7 board.
"Shadow Cliffs has an incredibly special spot in my heart," Sanwong told the Weekly. "It was a fun place for me to go to as a child."
"More recently, in December 2022, when the Shadow Cliffs Lake level was at its lowest point, the East Bay Regional Park District had a dedication ceremony for the new Shadow Cliffs Interpretive Pavilion," she added. "At the ceremony, my predecessor Ayn Wieskamp, introduced me and commented how she had high expectations for me to help make sure EBRPD fills Shadow Cliffs Lake with water."
She also said how refilling the lake was her first real challenge as an EBRPD director and that she especially appreciated the joint collaboration between not just Zone 7, but with the city of Pleasanton as well given that the city has noise ordinances that had to be addressed due to the loud pumps.
"There are about 11 homes that live fairly close to the arroyo, where the two pumps are operating," Sanwong said. "My staff at East Bay Regional Parks actually went and delivered a letter from the park district to each of those homeowners and if they were home, we would have a conversation with them."
Sanwong added that while the recreational aspect of refilling the lake excites her, as she grew up enjoying the lake, the conversation around exploring things like Zone 7's proposed Chain of Lakes pipeline project and how that could help ensure a more stable water supply for Shadow Cliffs is what's most important to her.
"Water in California is not simple," she said. "I think that the extreme weather patterns that we've been experiencing -- from severe drought to, you know, a deluge of storms that we experienced this year -- I think it's going to get even more complicated and complex going forward."
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described where the funding for the project came from. The East Bay Regional Park District is funding the refill project through a drought recovery fund. The Pleasanton Weekly regrets the error.