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2012 E4: Upper Penitencia Creek Flood Protection*

About This Project

Preferred project: A federal-state-local partnership

This project continues a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers(USACE) to plan, design and construct improvements along 4.2 miles of Upper Penitencia Creek from the confluence with Coyote Creek to Dorel Drive. Part of the project will protect the area around the Bay Area Rapid Transit's Berryessa station near King Road, which would otherwise be subject to flooding.

The natural creek channel will be preserved while adjacent existing open space and parkland will remain as recreational areas, only rarely taking the role as a temporary floodplain so that floodwaters do not enter surrounding neighborhoods and commercial areas. Proposed construction measures may include modified floodplains, levees, flood walls, bypass channels, and fish passage improvements. Existing Valley Water water supply facilities may also be modified to protect habitat and improve water supply reliability.

The $41.9 million ($48.9 million in inflated dollars) in local funding from Safe, Clean Water allows Valley Water to move ahead with the planning, design and construction of the project.

*This project was voter approved as part of the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program.

Upper Pen Along Commodore Park
San José
Start FY 2019 / Finish FY 2028
Safe, Clean Water Fund ($25.0 million); Watershed Stream Stewardship Fund
News and UpdatesNews and Updates
Reports and DocumentsReports and Documents
Environmental and Community BenefitsEnvironmental and Community Benefits
History and BackgroundHistory and Background
News & Updates

The Upper Penitencia Creek Project is a unique and multi-benefit effort currently in the planning stage with goals to:

• Reduce flood risk.

• Maintain and enhance water supply.

• Provide for trails and recreation.

• Maintain and improve the creek’s habitat.


Preferred project with federal and local funding:

  • No federal funding has been provided from USACE for this project.

Local-funding-only project: 

  • Valley Water continues to work on the local-funding-only option planning study with a streamlined planning process.

  • Valley Water completed the Problem Definition Report in spring 2019.

  • In winter 2017, the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee recommended that the Upper Penitencia Creek Project be reduced to only the planning phase and that the funds be reallocated to complete flood risk reduction along 9 miles of Coyote Creek from Montague Expressway to Tully Road. However, on May 23, 2018, the Valley Water Board of Directors (Board) decided to take “no action” on the proposed modification to the Upper Penitencia Creek Project and instead decided to re-evaluate both projects after the planning study report for each project is completed or substantially advanced. After further analysis, the planning team decided to divide the project into the following three phases:
    • Phase I – Reach 1 (Coyote Creek confluence up to King Rd);
    • Phase II – Reaches 2 & 3 (King Rd up to Capitol Ave); and 
    • Phase III – Reaches 4 through 7 (Capitol Ave up to Dorel Dr).
  • The Recommended Project was to move forward with Phases I & II: complete design and construction of reaches 1, 2 and 3 (Coyote Creek confluence up to Capitol Ave). The Recommended Project was presented to the CIP Committee and, with their support, presented to the Board on December 10, 2019. The Board approved the Recommended Project and the project team prepared to move forward with design and construction.

  • The project team is currently nearing the end of the planning phase and expects to transition into design by the end of fiscal year 2021. The project team continues to work on the Planning Study Report (PSR), the preliminary Plan & Profile Sheets (Plans), and a geomorphology study to assist in the channel restoration aspects.  The PSR and preliminary Plans are expected to be finalized by May 2021. The geomorphology study may extend into the initial stages of design and is expected to be completed by June 2021.

Updated April 2021 

For more information:

Reports & Documents

Inundation Maps


SFEI Vision Report


Public Meeting Materials

May 15, 2019:

Staff provided an update on the feasible alternatives which reflected the public input received at the October 2018 public meeting.


October 2, 2018:


Environmental & Community Benefits

Key Performance Indicators for the Safe, Clean Water Program

  1. Preferred project with federal and local funding: Construct a flood protection project to provide 1% flood protection to 5,000 homes, businesses and public buildings. 

  2. With local funding only: Acquire all necessary rights-of-way and construct a 1% flood protection project from Coyote Creek confluence to King Road. 


  • Preferred project provides 1% flood protection to approximately 5,000 homes, schools and businesses. Locally-funded-only project provides 1% flood protection to the proposed rapid transit station and areas downstream from King Road.

  • Reduces sedimentation and maintenance requirements

  • Improves water quality in Coyote Creek

  • Provides opportunities for recreation improvements consistent with the City of San José and Santa Clara County Park master plans

Geographic Area of Benefit

San José 


    History & Background

    Flooding History and Project Background

    Upper Penitencia is a major tributary of Coyote Creek, flowing westerly from Alum Rock Park through the residential neighborhoods of Berryessa and Alum Rock in San José. More than 5,000 homes, schools and businesses are located in this floodplain, including many high-tech and commercial industries supporting the greater Silicon Valley.

    With the capacity to carry less than a 10-year event, Upper Penitencia Creek has spilled its banks at least 7 times since the District began preparing flood reports in 1967. Damaging flood events occurred in 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1995, and 1998, impacting many homes, businesses and surface streets.

    Potential damages from a 1% (or 100-year) flood event are estimated at $455 million (in 2004 dollars, according to a USACE economic analysis), with average annual damages estimated at $30.5 million for the full reach from the Coyote Creek confluence to Dorel Drive.

    The preferred project would build on a 1981 tri-party agreement between the District, the City of San José, and Santa Clara County to preserve open land and provide flood protection along the Upper Penitencia Creek corridor. As a result of the agreement, 78 acres have been permanently preserved as Penitencia Creek County Park and Penitencia Creek Trail. A 4-mile, intermittent trail follows Upper Penitencia Creek from 700-acre Alum Rock Regional Park to its confluence with Coyote Creek. In addition to much-needed flood protection, this project will help provide the opportunity for the City of San José and Santa Clara County to complete the long-planned trail and linear park.

    About the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program

    In November 2012 the voters of Santa Clara County overwhelmingly approved Measure B, the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program, as a countywide special parcel tax for 15 years with a sunset date of June 30, 2028. This Program replaced the Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan, which voters approved in November 2000.

    The Safe, Clean Water Program was developed with input from more than 16,000 residents and stakeholders and was created to match the community’s needs and values. The voters of Santa Clara County identified five priorities:

    Priority A: Ensure a Safe, Reliable Water Supply

    Priority B: Reduce Toxins, Hazards and Contaminants in our Waterways

    Priority C: Protect our Water Supply from Earthquakes and Natural Disasters

    Priority D: Restore Wildlife Habitat and Provide Open Space

    Priority E: Provide Flood Protection to Homes, Businesses, Schools and Highways

    Other: Six projects from the Clean, Safe, Creeks Plan have been carried forward into the Safe, Clean Water Program

    Each year, Valley Water prepares a report providing a progress update for each of these Program priorities, along with fiscal year accomplishments.

    To ensure transparency and accountability to the voters, the ballot measure also created an Independent Monitoring Committee, appointed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors. The Independent Monitoring Committee annually reviews the Program’s progress to ensure the outcomes are achieved in a cost-efficient manner and reports its findings to the Board.

    In addition, the Program requires three independent audits, the first of which was conducted in FY 2017.

    View the Safe, Clean Water Program’s annual reports, annual IMC audit reports, and independent audits, including a staff response, on the Valley Water website.