See TNT explosions at Anderson Dam project near Morgan Hill

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Construction crews are halfway finished on a project to dig a 1,740-foot outlet tunnel — roughly as long as five football fields — through bedrock near Anderson Dam in Morgan Hill.

The new tunnel, 24 feet high, will allow water to be released from the reservoir faster in the event of an earthquake, massive winter storms or other emergency. It is part of a $1.4 billion project ordered by the federal government to tear down the 240-foot earthen dam, originally built in 1950, and rebuild it to modern seismic standards to reduce the risk of it failing in an earthquake.

As of Tuesday, workers had finished digging 830 feet of the new tunnel. When the work began last November, they used excavators and rock-cutting machines called road headers to carve away at a hillside on the left side of the dam. This month they have used TNT to blast through some of the hardest bedrock.

“We have made a lot of progress this year,” said Ryan McCarter, a civil engineer with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, who is overseeing the project. “We’re pleased. We’ve had some setbacks, but we’ve had weeks of really good production. It’s still on schedule.”

VIDEO: TNT explosions carve out new tunnel for Santa Clara County’s largest reservoir

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