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E6: Upper Llagas Creek Flood Protection*

About This Project

Preferred project: A federal-state-local partnership

This project continues a Clean, Safe Creeks project in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the state to plan, design, and construct improvements along 13.9 miles of channel. The project extends from Buena Vista Avenue to Wright Avenue, including West Little Llagas Creek in downtown Morgan Hill. The federally authorized preferred project protects the urban area of Morgan Hill from a 1% (or 100-year) flood, and reduces the frequency of flooding in surrounding areas. Construction includes channel modifications and replacement of road crossings. The District continues to work with Congress to aggressively pursue federal funds to bring this project to full fruition. In 2012, project limits were extended 2,700 feet upstream to Llagas Road to address public concerns.

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

Upper Llagas Creek Project
Preparing to Advertise for Construction for Phase 2
Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy
Start FY 2014 / Finish FY 2025
Safe, Clean Water Fund; Watershed Stream Stewardship Fund; State of California; City of Morgan Hill
News and UpdatesNews and Updates
Reports and DocumentsReports and Documents
Environmental and Community BenefitsEnvironmental and Community Benefits
History and BackgroundHistory and Background
News & Updates

Upper Llagas Creek Flood Protection: Progress and next construction activities

Phase 1 of the Upper Llagas Creek Flood Protection Project is progressing and is completing its first full in-channel season of construction ending in October 2020. This project is partially funded by the Safe, Clean Water Program, which helps Valley Water care for local waterways and provide flood protection to homes, schools and businesses.

Completed during the first season of work was the removal of concrete rubble, debris and trash, and destruction of monitoring wells, installation of bat boxes and fencing, removal of 12.5 acres of invasive blackberry at Lake Silveira and excavation to restore 2,000 linear feet of Llagas Creek from Lake Silveira towards Monterey Highway.

If you are familiar with the site, you may recall piles and pieces of concrete near Lake Silveira. In the early to late 1970s, Lake Silveira was an active quarry and presumably because of those operations, there was a significant amount of abandoned concrete rubble dispersed on and adjacent to Llagas Creek. Valley Water has removed the rubble as we prepare to restore the site to a more natural area while enhancing the environmental habitat.

The Land Trust of Santa Clara Valley is Valley Water’s long-term land manager partner at Lake Silveira.

During the in-channel construction season approximately 600,000 cubic yards of soil was excavated and removed this summer from Upper Llagas Creek from Reaches 4, 5 and a portion of 7A to increase capacity of the creek channel during storm events. Scour protection was installed at the roadway crossings within Phase 1 to protect the existing bridges. Approximately 75,000 CY of nutrient- rich topsoil was placed along the creek banks to help support the planting of riparian vegetation beginning this fall/winter. Instream complexities, such as coarse woody debris and rootwad-log structures, were installed along the creek’s bottom throughout Phase 1 to serve as future habitat for native wildlife.

Construction of the new wetland habitat at Lake Silveira included approximately 100,000 cubic yards of fill to create islands that will become habitat for birds, frogs, turtles and other wildlife. New features include an inlet and outlet structure for controlling the water elevations within the lake. When the lake begins to refill this winter, the site will be planted with native wetland vegetation.

Here are some of the construction activities you will likely witness beginning in October 2020 through April 30, 2021:

  • Continued excavation and placement of topsoil of the diversion channel in Reach 7A;
  • Planting of the wetlands in Lake Silveira;
  • Installation of thousands of native plants in fall/winter 2020;
  • Installation of aggregate base maintenance roads on both sides along the top of the creek banks; and
  • Installation of permanent fencing.

Valley Water will continue to collaborate with the City of Morgan Hill as they craft plans to develop the site for open space and recreational uses once Phase 1 of the flood protection project is completed. The work is an example of Valley Water’s commitment to restore wildlife habitat and provide open space for the public.

Valley Water Begins Project Construction (from September 2019)

In September 2019, Valley Water began construction of Phase 1 (Reaches 4 and 7a, portion of Reach 5, and Lake Silveira). Work for this phase consists of channel widening and deepening, instream improvements for wildlife and habitat, and revegetation.

The project will be constructed in several phases with each phase having specific sections (referred to as reaches on the map) where the proposed improvements will occur. With the completion of both Phase 1 and Phase 2, the project will provide 100-year level of flood protection to urban areas of Morgan Hill in Reaches 7 and 8, 10-year for Reach 14, and no induced flooding due to creek modifications on Reaches 4, 5, and 6. For a 100-year level of flood protection, this means Llagas Creek should be able to withstand flooding in the event of a large and rare storm event which has a one-in-100 (1 percent) chance of occurring in any given year.

Phase 2A: (portion of Reach 8) Construct approximately 2,300 linear feet of a horseshoe-shaped underground tunnel 14-foot x 10 foot and approximately 1,600 linear feet of 10 ft x 9 ft twin Reinforced Concrete Box Culverts (RCBs) upstream and downstream of the proposed tunnel to carry high water flows. Low flows will remain within the existing creek that winds through downtown Morgan Hill in Reach 8. Construction is expected to take 2.5 years and will include traffic control, detours, utility coordination and relocation, and public outreach. Phase 2A is anticipated to be advertised for construction in December 2020 with construction to begin in May 2021.

Phase 2B: (portion of Reach 5, Reach 6, Reach 7b, portion of Reach 8, Reach 14) Construct improvements on approximately 8 miles of Upper Llagas Creek, from US 101 to Llagas Road, to provide an increased level of flood protection with adequate freeboard. Construction will include creek widening and deepening, bridge/culvert construction, traffic control, utility coordination and relocation, construction of maintenance roads, and stable channel, with habitat enhancements. Construction is expected to take 2.5 years, followed by a 3-year plant establishment period. Phase 2B will be advertised for construction when funding is determined.

The Project requires purchasing approximately 105 parcels (76 permanent/29 temporary) from private or public agency owners. Approximately 100 of these permanent acquisitions have been acquired to date with the remaining parcels, including temporary construction rights, to be acquired by December 2020.

The latest Upper Llagas Creek project mailer is available for viewing.

Project brochure and inserts for Phase 1:

Brochure   Insert 1   Insert 2

Updated October 2020 

For more information:


Reports & Documents

Pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, Valley Water, as the lead agency for the Project, has prepared a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) to evaluate environmental impacts of the proposed Project

Additional reports related to the Project can be found by clicking on the link below:

  1. Geotechnical Report (2006)
     - Part 1
     - Part 2
  2. Site Characterization Report (2012)
  3. Reach 4 and 5 Limited Phase II ESA (2003)
  4. Reach 4, 5, 6, and 7B – Phase I ESA Vol 1 (2003)
  5. Reach 4, 5, 6, and 7B – Phase I ESA Vol 2 (2003)
     - Part 1
     - Part 2
  6. Reach 5 and 6 – Phase I ESA (2002)
  7. Reach 8 – Phase I ESA (2003)
  8. Reach 14 – Phase I ESA(2005)
Environmental & Community Benefits

Key Performance Indicators

  1. Preferred project with federal and local funding: Provide flood protection to 1,100 homes, 500 businesses, and 1,300 agricultural acres, while improving stream habitat.

  2. With local funding only: Provide 100-year flood protection for Reach 7 only (up to W. Dunne Avenue in Morgan Hill). A limited number of homes and businesses will be protected.


  • Preferred project provides 1% flood capacity for 4 miles of channel in downtown Morgan Hill, protecting approximately 1,100 homes and 500 businesses

  • Preferred project provides 10-year flood protection to approximately 1,300 agricultural acres in Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Martin

  • Locally-funded-only project provides 1% flood protection for a limited number of homes and businesses in Morgan Hill

  • Improves stream habitat and fisheries

  • Creates additional wetlands

  • Improves stream water quality

  • Identifies opportunities to integrate recreation improvements with the City of Morgan Hill and others as appropriate

Geographic Area of Benefit

Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy 

History & Background

Flooding History and Project Background

The area sustained damage in 1937, 1955, 1958, 1962, 1963, 1969, 1982, 1986, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2011. In 2009, many businesses and residences in downtown Morgan Hill were flooded under 1 foot of water. The project builds on the planning, design and property acquisition initiated under the Clean, Safe Creeks plan of 2000.

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.