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U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to attend water district groundbreaking ceremony for flood protection project

Contact: Susan Siravo
Office: (408) 265-2607, ext. 2290
Mobile: (408) 398-0754

August 26, 2009

SAN JOSE--- The Santa Clara Valley Water District and its project partner, the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are breaking ground this week on the next phase of the Lower Silver Creek Flood Protection Project. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will speak at the ceremony on Thursday, August 27 in San Jose.

The partially completed $78 million dollar flood protection project has been on hold since winter of 2007 due to lack of funds, but recently received an award of $18 million in stimulus package funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

"The benefits of this project are two-fold," said Water District Board Member Joe Judge, "It will provide flood protection to homes and businesses along the creek and stimulate the local economy by bringing much-needed jobs to the community. Jobs would be created for construction crews, engineers, tractor operators, truck drivers, cement finishers and many others."

Flooding in the Lower Silver Creek area has been a major problem over the past 50 years. Significant flood events occurred in 1952, 1955, 1958, 1967, 1982, 1983 and 1986. Based on this history, the water district partnered with NRCS to develop a watershed plan to alleviate the threat of flooding. Once completed, 3,800 homes and businesses along the creek will be protected from a 100-year flood event.

"We couldn't imagine a better use of ARRA funds. In addition to providing protection from the damages of floods, the completed project will also provide enhanced habitat and vegetation along the creek and new recreational amenities for the neighborhood, including pedestrian bridges and opportunities for new trails," said Anita Brown, NRCS Public Affairs Director.

A groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the restarting of the Lower Silver Creek Flood Protection Project will be held Thursday, August 27 at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony will take place near the baseball fields at Ocala Middle School in San Jose, located at 2800 Ocala Avenue.

In addition to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren will attend, as well as Water District Board Members Sig Sanchez, Tony Estremera, Rosemary Kamei, Patrick Kwok, Richard Santos, and Larry Wilson.

While $18 million in ARRA funds will get the project going again, ultimately it will take $40 to $60 million to complete the entire project. This means that the water district and the NRCS will have to seek additional funding in future years.

Background:
Although Congress approved the plan in 1986, it was deemed unacceptable by regulatory agencies and the community. This led to numerous public meetings to gain a better understanding of the community's concerns and expectations, which ultimately led to a redesign of the plan. In 1998 the plan was ready, but federal funding had largely run out. Using local property tax funds, the water district was able to move forward with construction of Reaches 1-3 of the project, which stretched from Coyote Creek to Interstate-680. The remaining Reaches, 4-6, which will extend between I-680 and Cunningham Avenue, have been awaiting funding since the completion of reach 3 in winter of 2007.

The final phases of this project offer many benefits, including:

  • Flood protection of homes and businesses for 16,000 direct beneficiaries
  • Flood protection of businesses, highways and infrastructure used by 250,000 people
  • Protection and enhancement of 3.4 acres of urban wetland habitat
  • Several hundred construction-related jobs
  • Water quality improvements as stream bank erosion diminishes
  • Parks and foot bridges that connect neighborhoods and the creek

The Santa Clara Valley Water District manages water resources and provides stewardship for the county's five watersheds, including 10 reservoirs, hundreds of miles of streams and groundwater basins. The water district also provides flood protection throughout Santa Clara County.