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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. The project is also funded in partnership with the state. Part of the project must be completed prior to a planned Silicon Valley Rapid Transit extension to the Bay Area Rapid Transit line, to protect the area around the proposed 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 District water supply facilities may also be modified to protect habitat and improve water supply reliability.

The $41.9 million in local funding from Safe, Clean Water allows the District 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
On Target
San José
Start FY 2019 / Finish FY 2026
Safe, Clean Water Fund ($48.9 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
  • No federal funding provided for USACE for this project for 2017.

  • District continues working on local-option planning study with planning team.

  • District partnered with the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) to conduct a landscape concept workshop to develop alternatives in line with the Integrated Water Resources Planning effort (One Water).  SFEI developed a memo summarizing the workshop presentations and findings and continues to work on a full Vision Report with the District.

  • The project team streamlined the planning process in order to finish the conceptual alternative phase by the end of FY18 and finish the feasible alternative phase by the end of FY19.  In order to better develop alternatives from the SFEI workshop and to help tailor the conceptual plan to better meet the District’s and its partners’ needs; an internal expertise team was created which includes District personal from the following fields: flood protection, water supply, wildlife habitat and natural resources.  This internal expertise team will take part in several workshops in the next quarter to help develop a conceptual vision that will meet the multi-objects of the Project.

  • The planning team is updating and continues working on the Problem Definition Report and Communication Plan.  These will be completed in the next quarter.

Updated January 2018

For more information:

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 Jose 


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, the District 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 District website.