As part of its Stream Maintenance Program (SMP), the Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water) plans to perform work along creeks across Santa Clara County this summer. Under the SMP, work occurs annually to improve the environment, reduce the risk of flooding and keep our communities safe. For decades, our crews have been trekking into streams to remove sediment build-up, manage vegetation, clear trash and debris, and stabilize banks that have eroded during high water flows. Work to reduce fire danger continues to be important, especially given the county’s extreme drought conditions and the ongoing challenges of climate change. The SMP ensures streams with completed flood protection projects continue to function as designed to protect homes and businesses.
Valley Water owns and manages about 294 miles of streams. Each year, portions of these streams are inspected and prioritized for maintenance projects.
- Under the "News and Updates" tab below, you'll find information on this year's projects.
- Under the "Reports and Document" tab below, you'll find various notices, factsheets and documents related to SMP.
- Under the "Environmental and Community Benefits" and "History and Backgrounds" tabs below, you'll find more background about the program.
For more information about the program or projects, you can also contact Jose Villarreal at 408-630-2879 or [email protected].
The projects listed here are part of this season’s proposed work. Existing work and minor work are not included in this listing and are done throughout the year. Pending state and federal regulatory approvals, work on Stream Maintenance Program projects will continue through Oct. 15. In some instances, Valley Water may request and receive work extensions beyond Oct. 15 to complete projects. Other work, including minor maintenance, riparian planting, invasive plant removal, and other vegetation management projects, can occur year-round. A copy of this year's general program notice is available to download, which includes a map of the work locations. The 2023 project sites are listed to the right. Notices from previous years and other important creekside information are available in the "Reports and Documents" tab.
What to expect
Work on SMP projects typically occurs Monday through Friday, but Saturday work may be necessary to complete some projects. Work hours are set by local city ordinances, starting between 7 a.m. and generally ending by 5 p.m. Our crews strive to be courteous to all neighbors. Any work occurring before 8 a.m. will be limited to preparation activities with minimal noise impact.
Potential Types of Stream Maintenance Program Work
High and sustained water flows can cause extensive damage to creek banks, eroding existing flood protection improvements and natural elements. Repairing creek banks also helps protect neighboring homes and property from damage.
Sediment and debris washed downstream can restrict water flow in some areas. During a heavy storm, these restricted flow areas could cause water to back up, which can increase the risk of flooding. Crews remove sediment to allow stormwater to flow through the creeks as designed. To the extent possible, Valley Water reuses sediment for environmental purposes and to reduce disposal costs.
Valley Water crews manage over 3,000 acres of instream and upland vegetation annually. Selective removal of instream vegetation maintains flow conveyance in streams and riparian corridors. Managing upland vegetation restores maintenance access and maintains fire code compliance, given the county’s cyclical dry conditions and the ongoing challenges of climate change. Valley Water’s vegetation management work is crucial in helping to reduce fire risk.
Valley Water implements mitigation projects to offset impacts associated with some of the bank protection, sediment removal, and vegetation management work. Mitigation projects can include:
- Riparian planting: Enhances and establishes habitat for birds, amphibians, fish, and other terrestrial and aquatic species living in creek corridors to compensate for the unavoidable riparian impacts created by sediment removal, bank protection, and vegetation management activities. Invasive and non-native annuals and grasses that compete with native plants are removed. Vegetation that meets the habitat needs of the project site with the highest likelihood of surviving and thriving is planted. Valley Water monitors and maintains riparian planting areas for five to seven years to ensure projects are successful.
- Invasive plant management: Plant species such as Algerian ivy, Cape ivy, Himalayan blackberry, tree of heaven, and giant reed, are removed because they present a significant threat to the ecosystem. These plants spread aggressively and can negatively alter wildlife patterns, soil stability, and water quality. Invasive plants can increase the risk of flooding and fire danger, undermine structural assets, and obstruct access to roads, levees, and trails.
- Instream habitat improvement: Work is done to address the impacts of removing sediment and large woody debris from certain streams. This can include adding rocks and logs or root wads to the creek to create higher-quality habitat for fish and other species.
- Compensatory mitigation: This is the restoration, establishment, enhancement, or preservation of natural resources to replace resources impacted by maintenance activities. In addition to the above work types, compensatory mitigation may include the restoration of existing floodplains and bank rehabilitation by remediating unauthorized excavations, concrete removal, and sediment removal to promote wetland habitat.
*The information on this page has been provided by Valley Water staff for SMP work anticipated to be conducted this year. While Valley Water will make every effort to undertake these projects, work may not be conducted for multiple reasons, including delays in receipt of regulatory agencies’ approvals, wildlife considerations, unforeseen site conditions, and unavailability of resources, among other circumstances.
Valley Water's Stream Maintenance Program (SMP) ensures flood protection projects continue to function as designed to protect homes and businesses along water district streams.
Thanks to various flood protection projects completed by Valley Water, some homes and businesses have been removed from FEMA-designated flood zones, and in addition to flood risk reduction activities, save residents countywide over $2 million in flood insurance premiums each year. Once those flood protection projects are completed, Valley Water’s Stream Maintenance Program ensures those projects continue to function as designed to protect homes and businesses along water streams.
- There are more than 800 miles of creeks in Santa Clara County. Valley Water owns 275 miles of streams in the county, but only a portion of these have been modified with flood protection projects. Those are the streams that are maintained by Valley Water.
Valley Water crews regularly inspect stream and bank conditions. Toward the end of the rain season, staff finalize the proposed work plan for the upcoming Stream Maintenance Program work season.
From June to October, after securing state and federal regulatory agencies’ approval of the work plan, our crews trek into streams to remove sediment, manage vegetation, clear trash and debris, and stabilize banks that have been eroded. While the heavy work takes place in the summer, stream maintenance is a year-round effort.
During heavy storms, unruly vegetation and sediment washed down from areas upstream can restrict the flow of water and in some areas, cause a back-up, increasing the risk of flooding. Valley Water monitors known “hot spots” for vegetation and debris buildups and where needed and safe to do so, take action to remove these blockages and reduce the threat of localized flooding.
Stream maintenance work also includes an integrated vegetation management program which provides many benefits. Removal of in-stream vegetation ensures flow conveyance. Upland vegetation management is performed to meet fire code compliance and maintenance access. Native planting and invasive plant removal projects improve the ecological habitat of the riparian ecosystem.
If you observe a problem in any creek in our service area, you can report it on our "Access Valley Water" online customer request and information system. This is the best way to alert our field crews of downed branches, eroding banks, trash, graffiti or overgrown vegetation.
Keep debris and trash out of our streams: If you see trash polluting a creek, pond or reservoir, call 1(888) 510-5151.
YOUR INVESTMENT AT WORK
In November 2020, voters in Santa Clara County overwhelmingly approved Measure S, a renewal of Valley Water’s Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program that was approved in 2012. The renewed program identifies the following six key community priorities, established with tens of thousands of residents and stakeholders:
Priority D provides funding for Valley Water to conduct mitigation site maintenance on native plant revegetation projects in creeks where we have jurisdiction to complete work. Priority F provides funding for Valley Water to conduct vegetation management and sediment removal projects for flow conveyance in creeks where we have jurisdiction or approval to complete work. The funding for this work is critical as it helps to enhance and establish habitat for wildlife and reduce flood risks to our communities. Thank you for
Details on the renewed Safe, Clean Water Program can be found at safecleanwater.org. The renewed Safe, Clean Water program will become effective starting on July 1, 2021.