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San Francisquito Creek Flood Protection: Bay to Highway 101

About This Project

The Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water) is a member agency of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA), which is leading a project to protect East Palo Alto and Palo Alto from flooding along San Francisquito Creek between San Francisco Bay and U.S. Highway 101. These communities are at high risk of severe flooding from flows coming down the creek, particularly during high tides. Improving this stretch of about one and a half miles of San Francisquito Creek constitutes the necessary first step in an overall plan to provide more than 5,700 homes and businesses with creek flood protection during extreme tides and after sea levels rise two feet. 

Visit for comprehensive information on the project and adjoining projects related to the creek and Bay shoreline protection, restoration and trail enhancement.

Bridge over San Francisquito Creek
Palo Alto
Start FY 2010/ Finish FY 2019
Safe, Clean Water Fund ($28 million for the District share only)
News and UpdatesNews and Updates
Reports and DocumentsReports and Documents
Environmental and Community BenefitsEnvironmental and Community Benefits
History and BackgroundHistory and Background
News & Updates

Construction of Bay-to-Highway 101 Project Status

The construction of flood protection features along San Francisquito Creek that began in 2016 are now complete with major work elements installed, including floodwalls and a significantly wider creek marsh plain. We are continuing work outside the creek channel, including the final phase of installing native vegetation.

Trails and Friendship Bridge are now re-opened

While trails are now re-opened, please keep in mind that some finishing touches to the trails and adjacent areas will be addressed after January 1, 2019. Some work may necessitate temporary closures of certain portions of trails in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. Upcoming changes will be noted on this site and via project update emails. Sign up for project update notices.

Palo Alto trails:

  • East Bayshore Road to Geng Road: Re-opened
  • Geng Road to Friendship Bridge: Re-opened
  • Friendship Bridge to the Bay: Re-opened

East Palo Alto trails:

  • East Bayshore Road to Verbena Drive: Intermittent closure
  • Verbena Drive to Friendship Bridge: Intermittent closure
  • North of Friendship Bridge: Re-opened 

East San Francisquito Creek Trail Intermittent Closure

The San Francisquito Creek JPA's Bay to Highway 101 Project has completed construction of the flood protection features, and the last push to complete the project entails finishing work on trails and vegetation planting. 

Crews will lay base rock on the pathway from Verbena Drive to Daphne Way and make other grading improvements to the new trail behind the new flood wall.  This work will necessitate intermittent trail closures in East Palo Alto from East Bayshore Road to the O’Connor Street entrance.  The detour route runs from East Bayshore Road, to Pulgas Avenue extending to O’Connor Street.  Please see map below.

Work is scheduled from January 28 to February 8, 2019 from 7 am. – 5 pm., Monday through Friday. This segment of the trail will be re-opened as soon as work is completed. 

For your safety, please adhere to all trail signage and fencing.



SFC JPA Celebration of Safety Event on December 14 - First phase of Flood Protection Completed

More than 100 community leaders, elected officials and agency staff braved the rain on Friday, December 14, to celebrate the completion of flood protection improvements on a key section of San Francisquito Creek.

The project is not yet complete; however, the flood protection aspect is finished. There is improved access to trails and existing marsh habitat. A "horizontal levee," also known as a "living levee," slopes more gradually than a typical levee, creates a more natural, gradual transition from the levee to the adjacent marsh. As the sea level rises, the levee will adapt and continue to provide flood protection.

Other improvements include a beautiful boardwalk extension to the popular Friendship Bridge, which will soon be open for use. Also, Caltrans replaced the U.S. 101 bridge to allow for more storm water to flow under the freeway.

Santa Clara Valley Water District Board Member and San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority Chair Gary Kremen said, “It gives me great pleasure to say that this project, from the Bay to Highway 101, which will protect the most vulnerable neighbors of San Francisquito Creek, is now complete. That’s a statement decades in the making.”

 “We’re not done,” Kremen added. “This is just one part of the creek that we fixed. The next part, we’re going to be working upstream. You have to do downstream before you do upstream. Things like Pope-Chaucer Bridge, Newell Bridge. Areas within the creek. So we have a lot of work to do on this. It’s all been about partnerships.”

A broad range of distinguished guests spoke at the event: U.S. Representative Jackie Speier, State Senator Jerry Hill, East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Gauthier, Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss, former East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica, Anne Morkill of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local resident Dennis Parker, and San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Len Materman.

The $44.5 million construction cost of the Bay to Highway 101 phase of the overall project was funded by Valley Water and many of its partners. Valley Water’s Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program, a voter approved 2012 special parcel tax, provided more than $28 million of the construction funding. Additional funding came from nearly $11.9 million in state grants, along with a combined total of approximately $4.5 million coming from our partner agencies: the San Mateo County Flood Control District and the cities of East Palo Alto, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park.

Because this creek crosses through several city and county jurisdictions, a JPA was formed in 1999, following the devastating flood of 1998. The five members are Santa Clara Valley Water District, the San Mateo County Flood Control District, and the cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and East Palo Alto.

These communities are at high risk of severe flooding from flows coming down the creek, particularly during high tides. Improving this stretch of about one and a half miles of San Francisquito Creek constitutes the necessary first step in an overall plan to provide more than 5,700 homes and businesses with creek flood protection during extreme tides and after sea levels rise two feet.

While the flood protection improvements are in place, work continues on environmental enhancements within the adjacent Faber Marsh. New native vegetation will be installed to provide habitat to the salt marsh harvest mouse and Ridgway’s rail.

The next phase of the project is Upstream of Highway 101. Similar to the first phase, the project will provide 1% (or 100-year) flood protection, ecosystem protection, and recreational benefits. The work being done to the Upstream of Highway 101 will remedy channel constrictions and modify bridges at Newell Road and Pope/Chaucer Street. It will include a combination of: modifications to the University Avenue and Middlefield Road bridges; upstream detention; underground bypass channels; and floodwalls, that could potentially be built. Both the SFC JPA and the U.S. Army Corporation of Engineers are actively working together to develop an environmental documentation that will result in the locally preferred plan.

Updated December 2022

For more information:



Reports & Documents

Project fact sheets

Construction phase public meetings and notices

Date Meeting or notice
July 2, 2018 Construction notice mailed to surrounding properties (English/Spanish) 
June 28, 2018 Email update: Trail & bridge closures begin July 12, with reopening targeted for December 2018
February 13, 2018 Email update: Trail & bridge reopened through early May 
January 31, 2018 Email update: Trail & bridge closures update 
December 20, 2017 Email update: Trail & bridge closures now to Feb 2018 
July 12, 2017

Construction notice: Friendship Bridge closure and night work (English/Spanish)

Email update: Friendship Bridge closure and night work starting mid-July 

May 17, 2017

Email update: New trail closures start May 22 and June 1

May 17, 2017 Construction notice mailed to surrounding properties (English/Spanish)
April 21, 2017 Email update: Trail closures start April 24
October 17, 2016 Email update: Trails closed on 10/18
September 29, 2016 Email update: Trails open on Thurs 9/29
September 20, 2016 Email update: Trails closed on Thurs 9/22
September 15, 2016 Email update: Trails reopen on Fri 9/16
September 12, 2016 Email update: Trail closures during the week of 9/12
September 1, 2016 Email update: Construction underway and trail closures 
August 5, 2016

Groundbreaking ceremony at Friendship Bridge, East Palo Alto (Event program)

July 14, 2016

Pre-construction meeting at East Palo Alto City Hall (Presentation slides)  

June 30, 2016 Email update: Construction begins in June 2016
June 29, 2016 Pre-construction neighborhood notice mailed to surrounding properties (English/Spanish)
June 22, 2016 Presentation to the Crescent Park Neighborhood Association 


Environmental & Community Benefits

The San Francisquito Creek Flood Protection Project is being implemented in two segments: from the Bay to Highway 101 (downstream), and upstream of Highway 101 (upstream). Once both segments are completed, the project will provide the following benefits.

Key Performance Indicators for the Safe, Clean Water Program

  1. Preferred project with federal, state and local funding: Protect more than 3,000 parcels by providing 1% flood protection.

  2. With state and local funding only: Protect approximately 3,000 parcels from flooding (100-year protection downstream of Highway 101, and approximately 30-year protection upstream of Highway 101).


  • Provides 1% flood protection for approximately 3,000 homes and businesses in Palo Alto

  • Reduces bank erosion and sedimentation-related impacts along San Francisquito Creek

  • Provides new or improved habitats for endangered species

  • Improves water quality

  • Enhances recreational opportunities for the community

  • Leverages dollars via cost-shares and grants from the state Department of Water Resources and the California Department of Transportation

Geographic Area of Benefit

Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park 

History & Background

Project Background

Construction began in June 2016 and is expected to be complete in early 2019, with most of the work limited to June through January to protect endangered species in the area.

The San Francisco Bay to Highway 101 project includes excavating decades of sediment build up in the channel, new floodwalls where private property constrains the channel, widening the channel by building a new levee through the Palo Alto Golf Course, and rebuilding the existing levee adjacent to East Palo Alto homes. 

The following activities have been or are nearing completion:

  • Install approximately 2,800 feet of steel sheet pile floodwall along the south side of the creek between Geng Road and East Bayshore Road in Palo Alto.

  • Install approximately 2,000 feet of steel sheet pile floodwall along the north side of the creek between Daphne Way and East Bayshore Road in East Palo Alto.

  • Increase the creek flow capacity by widening the creek and creating new marshland, and excavate sediment within the creek channel

  • Construct a new, safer PG&E gas transmission pipeline and East Palo Alto Sanitary District sewer line under the creek

The following activities are in progress and upcoming:

  • Import soil and build portions of the new levees.

  • Work on the Friendship Bridge extension.

  • Install environmental enhancements within Faber Marsh.

  • Plan for the in-channel work that will begin in June 2018.

*Note: These are the projected activities based on the contractor's current schedule and may change throughout the course of the year.

Flooding History 

San Francisquito Creek is one of the last continuous riparian corridors on the San Francisco Peninsula, and is also home to 1 of the few remaining viable steelhead trout runs. The creek can cause severe flood damage with very little warning and has overflowed 7 times since 1910.

During the February 1998 El Niño event, record flooding caused an estimated $28 million in damages in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park. More than 1,100 homes were flooded in Palo Alto, and Highway 101 was closed, as were numerous other roadways. The largest flood on record prior to 1998 occurred in December of 1955 when the creek overtopped its banks in several locations, inundating about 1,200 acres of commercial and residential property. Damages were estimated at nearly $2 million in 1956 dollars. Total damages from a 1% flood event are estimated at $300 million in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, as calculated by the USACE in 2011.

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

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 [link to IMC page] 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.