BY GARY KREMEN
As many of you remember, the 1998 San Francisquito Creek record flood ravaged parts of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
Floodwaters from the overflowing creek invaded more than 1,100 homes and businesses, causing more than $28 million in damages.
Hundreds of people were forced out of their homes, with some properties drenched in over four feet of water.
Twenty years later, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and its partners from the San Francisquito Joint Powers Authority are celebrating the completion of the flood protection project from the San Francisco Bay to Highway 101.
The authority was formed shortly after the 1998 flood, comprised of the Water District, the county of San Mateo, and the cities of East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Planning and design of the multi-jurisdictional flood protection project began in 2000, with construction starting in 2016.
1,000 homes protected
The Bay-to-Highway 101 portion of the project now offers protection to more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto from a 100-year flood.
A 100-year flood is a flood that has a 1% chance of happening any given year.
Improvements on this stretch of the creek involved extensive flood protection elements such as relocating a levee, widening parts of the creek and installing flood barriers.
The project also includes protection against approximately two feet of sea-level rise during a high-tide event, with the help of 16 acres of new and improved marsh habitat.
In addition to flood protection, the project enhanced recreational opportunities through an extended Friendship Bridge and newly paved trails.
The newly completed project boasts some impressive environmental benefits. The restored wetlands help protect the endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, and the iconic Ridgway’s Rail. Steelhead and other native fish will also benefit from six large wood structures installed in the creek that help encourage and assist migration.
The Bay-to-Highway 101 project is part of a larger effort to protect more than 5,700 homes and businesses across the three cities. The critical second segment of the project, from Highway 101 to El Camino Real in Palo Alto, is in the planning stage — stay tuned.
We at the water district are proud that we have led the local funding with $28 million spent to date and with nearly $10 million committed for upstream.
Together with our authority partners, the water district continues working to reduce flood risks along the remaining portions of San Francisquito Creek. To learn more about our continued flood protection projects, visit www.valleywater.org.
Gary Kremen represents Northern Santa Clara County on the Santa Clara Valley Water District board and is chair of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority. For further information, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 305-3052.