print Font Size: small font medium font large font

San Francisquito Creek project leaps forward

Marty Grimes
Santa Clara Valley Water District
(408) 630-2881 (o)
(408) 202-4398 (m)

Len Materman
San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority
(650) 867-7768 (m)

Bookmark and Share

Date: October 26, 2012

PALO ALTO — On Tuesday, Oct. 23, the Santa Clara Valley Water District took two significant steps toward protecting more than 3,000 homes and businesses from a 100-year flood along San Francisquito Creek.

First, the board approved an agreement with Nolte Associates, Inc. to provide design services for the replacement of the Pope/Chaucer Street Bridge, an element of an overall flood protection project for San Francisquito Creek.

Second, the board approved an agreement with the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to provide construction management services for a flood protection project on the first section of the creek, which could begin construction in 2013, if funds are available.

In November 2000, the voters of Santa Clara County approved the water district’s Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection parcel tax measure. The San Francisquito Creek Flood Protection Project is one of the nine flood protection projects included in the measure. A total of $10.6 million in planning and design funding is allocated to the project from the Clean, Safe Creeks fund.

As promised in the Clean, Safe Creeks measure, the water district is on target to complete the planning and design phases for the project (not construction) by 2016.

Following the San Francisquito Creek flood event of 1998, the cities of East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Palo Alto, along with the San Mateo County Flood Control District and the Santa Clara Valley Water District, formed the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority on May 18, 1999. The JPA was authorized to represent its member agencies as the local sponsor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ San Francisquito Creek General Investigation Study.

The General Investigation Study will determine the feasibility of a federally funded project to reduce flood damages, restore ecosystems and create recreational opportunities within the San Francisquito Creek watershed. The corps’s initial determination indicated a federal interest in developing a flood control project for San Francisquito Creek.

While the corps completes its feasibility study, the water district has moved the project forward by initiating a planning study report and conducting a preliminary alternatives analysis. Since the replacement of the Pope/Chaucer Street Bridge is an element of all of the corps’s feasible alternatives, the water district is ready to move forward with a design of this project element.

 Pope/Chaucer Bridge
Rising floodwaters at the Pope/Chaucer Street Bridge

In December 2012, a new environmental impact report led by the JPA and funded by the water district will examine the replacement of the Pope/Chaucer Bridge and other projects upstream of Highway 101. The funds to construct many of these projects are included within Measure B on the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot.

The JPA’s executive director, Len Materman, reminded the board that the Pope/Chaucer Bridge was a significant choking point that resulted in the flooding of more than 1,500 Palo Alto homes and businesses in 1998. The replacement bridge will be sized to carry water from a major storm that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

The contract with Nolte Associates, Inc., a San Jose based company, totals $509,797 for professional structural engineering design services including project management, preparation of design documents and bidding support.

The early implementation project, which will shore up levees from San Francisco Bay to Highway 101, will be completed with local funding and an $8 million grant from the California Department of Water Resources. The construction cost for this project is expected to total $24 million.

San Francisquito JPA Bay to 101 
San Francisquito Creek from the S.F. Bay to Highway 101

“We’re grateful that the water district has the capacity, expertise and willingness to take on construction management when we’re ready to begin,” said Materman at Tuesday’s water district board meeting.

Water district board member Brian Schmidt, who represents the Palo Alto area, remarked, “There are significant environmental benefits from this particular project. It’s more of a natural flood type system with the levees being moved out with a hydrological connection to the tidal wetland areas.”

On Thursday, Oct. 25, the San Francisquito JPA Board of Directors voted unanimously to certify the final environmental impact report for this early implementation project. The design will be completed by the end of 2012. In early 2013, the water district board will consider allocating funds for the construction phase.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District manages an integrated water resources system that includes the supply of clean, safe water, flood protection and stewardship of streams on behalf of Santa Clara County's 1.8 million residents. The district effectively manages 10 dams and surface water reservoirs, three water treatment plants, a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, nearly 400 acres of groundwater recharge ponds and more than 275 miles of streams. We provide wholesale water and groundwater management services to local municipalities and private water retailers who deliver drinking water directly to homes and businesses throughout Santa Clara County.