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Almaden Lake Improvement Project

About This Project

The purpose of the Almaden Lake Improvement Project was to restore the creek channel section within Almaden Lake Park and eliminate the current condition whereby Alamitos Creek flows through the lake. Having Alamitos Creek flow through Almaden Lake is unfavorable for the native fish population in the Guadalupe Watershed. Further, it allows for directly depositing naturally occurring mercury-laden sediment into the lake. This has resulted in native fish (steelhead) potentially losing their way in the lake and falling prey to non-native fish (bass), as well as the lake having mercury-related water quality issues.

Planning for the project began in 2012, with Valley Water conducting extensive hands-on outreach through 2015 to the community, holding public meetings and providing presentations to neighborhood associations, service organizations, and the city of San Jose to educate all and garner input on the project's design. 

This project is being postponed. See below ‘News and Updates’ for more details.


Almaden Lake
San Jose
News and UpdatesNews and Updates
Reports and DocumentsReports and Documents
Environmental and Community BenefitsEnvironmental and Community Benefits
History and BackgroundHistory and Background
News & Updates

Almaden Lake Project postponed

In January 2023, Valley Water's board of directors put project construction on hold due to rising costs. There is no timeline to restart the project, but staff will continue to evaluate means to complete the work and determine whether to keep the current design for the lake or study different alternatives. 

Valley Water will continue to monitor the lake for naturally occurring mercury concentrations, including using solar bees, which are floating devices equipped with solar-powered pumps that churn the water to help reduce the effects of algae. 

With the project on hold, there are no impacts to recreation in Almaden Lake Park. The city of San Jose manages recreation activities at the park.

Environmental Impact Report 

To read the report, click the links below.

Final Environmental Impact Report

Appendices _ Final Environmental Impact Report

Notice of Determination

Did you miss our public meeting?

Valley Water hosted a public meeting on Jan. 8, 2020, to present the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). If you could not attend, you can still view the meeting on our YouTube channel by clicking here

For More Information

Environmental & Community Benefits

 Key Performance Indicator

  1. Construct 1 creek/lake separation project in partnership with local agencies.


  • Improves fish passage to spawning and rearing habitat within the Guadalupe Watershed
  • Improves steelhead trout habitat in the restored creek
  • Reduces mercury in Almaden Lake

Geographic Area of Benefit

  • San Jose
History & Background

Mining during California’s gold rush era played a role in the proliferation of mercury in local waters. Between 1850 and 1970, there was a release of about 6,500 tons of mercury from the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines into local creeks and rivers in the upper Guadalupe Watershed, about five miles from the project site.

The on-and-off stream gravel quarry operations along the east side of Alamitos Creek comprised of three main large pits around the 1960s created Almaden Lake. After gravel quarry operations ceased, heavy storm events eroded the levee that separated the creek from the quarry, resulting in discharge of creek waters into the former quarry area, creating the lake. The lake’s bottom is unnaturally varied due to the remnant pits. Remnant dikes that separated individual pits during quarry operations remain, but are now submerged below the water surface. In fact, the existing island in the lake is really a remnant dike.

Since its formation, mercury-laden sediment from the mines has deposited into the lake and accumulated at its bottom. The lake also suffers from high nutrient and organic matter loadings from algal blooms and waterfowl. The lake does not percolate and because of the remnant pits, it does not circulate well. This condition contributes to the bottom waters seasonally experiencing low oxygen or anoxic conditions. In those conditions, certain microbes transform mercury into methylmercury, a strong neurotoxin that accumulates in the tissues of organisms, such as fish in Almaden Lake.

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board has adopted specific water quality objectives contained in its 2008 Basin Amendment Plan. Mercury conditions in Almaden Lake currently exceed these objectives and the proposed project looks to address methylmercury production in the lake to meet these objectives.  

Planning for the project began in 2012, with the water district conducting extensive hands-on outreach over two years to the community, holding public meetings and providing presentations to neighborhood associations, service organizations and the City of San José to garner input on the project’s design. Planning was deemed complete with the selection of project options #6 and #7.