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Protecting East San Jose from flooding while safeguarding the environment

August 14, 2019
Upper Penitencia Creek

By Richard P. Santos,  Representative for District 3

Walking along the Upper Penitencia Creek, which runs through the cities of San Jose and Milpitas, patrons of Alum Rock Park can attest to its beauty. This major tributary of Coyote Creek bridges urban life with open space, providing a unique charm to northeast Santa Clara Valley.

However, all along the urbanized reach of the creek, there is a potential flood risk.

As such, Valley Water has been working on a flood protection project that would reduce the risk to approximately 8,000 properties along 4.2 miles of Upper Penitencia Creek. The creek has a history of flooding with significant events in the 1950s, 80s, and 90s.

Thanks to voter support and the passing of the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program in 2012, your special parcel tax dollars are hard at work. Valley Water is busy reviewing a planning study that defines project challenges, existing threats, ultimate objectives, and evaluates various project alternatives.

Last fall, we shared conceptual options to gather your feedback. And just this spring, a second community outreach effort presented proposals that implemented your input. The latest round of alternatives explores different target levels of flood protection.

One of the project constraints is ensuring no additional flood risks to downstream areas. The team is exploring different options that address potential floods of different magnitudes.

Valley Water is now screening and evaluating those feasible alternatives, based on ten criteria categories aimed at achieving natural flood protection. We anticipate that a preferred proposal will be presented to the board later this summer.

I look forward to making sure that the project for Upper Penitencia Creek goes beyond flood protection. We have a commitment to restore the stream environment and improving the habitat for wildlife. Once completed, Upper Penitencia Creek can offer both the ability to increase our groundwater replenishment and provide recreational opportunities for our residents.

To learn more about the Upper Penitencia Project and see the latest project alternatives, visit the project page on


As always, I am available for questions or comments as your District 3 representative for Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Alviso community, Milpitas, and Berryessa/Alum Rock communities. Feel free to contact me at (408) 234-7707, or by email at [email protected].

Valley Water 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 2 million residents. The district effectively manages 10 dams and surface water reservoirs, three water treatment plants, an advanced recycled water purification center, a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, nearly 277 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 in Santa Clara County.