San Francisquito Creek project goes to construction

In 1998, many residents of Palo Alto found themselves knee-deep in floodwaters that infiltrated their homes or streets from San Francisquito Creek. Cars parked along what were once roads were floating in a swamp of murky water. The record flood of the 1998 El Niño winter damaged approximately 1,700 homes and businesses in the area, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in damages.

Projects have been proposed since the 1950’s to address the real flood threat from San Francisquito, but the fact that it is the boundary between cities and counties has made agreement and implementation elusive. That is why, after the 1998 flood, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, County of San Mateo and the cities of Palo Alto, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto formed a new government agency, the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA) to address the flood threat and improve the ecosystem and recreation opportunities.

This June, seven years after the SFCJPA decided upon its preferred alternative to begin construction on the creek, the first phase of construction has begun between the Bay and Highway 101 along Palo Alto and East Palo Alto.  Total construction for the first phase of the project is expected to last approximately three years with construction season taking place between June and January each year.  In total, projects on this creek will protect over 5,700 homes and businesses.

The Bay-Highway 101 project objective is to provide 100-year creek flood protection (meaning protection against a large flooding event with a 1 percent chance of happening in any given year). The project design accounts for the possibility that a storm event coincides with an unusually high tide (one that has a 10 percent chance of happening in any given year) and as much as two feet of anticipated sea level rise over the next 50 years.  Additional components of the project include new flood walls, widening the channel, and replacing a degraded levee so that floodwater can enter the Baylands, creating over 15 acres of new marshlands. Simultaneous to construction of this project, Caltrans is rebuilding the Highway 101 bridge over the creek, and a future phase of the project upstream of Highway 101 will widen the channel and replace bridges on Newell Street and along Pope and Chaucer streets.

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The over $70 million cost of all phases of the project are provided by multiple agencies including the Santa Clara Valley Water District, SFCJPA, San Mateo County Flood Control District and cities of East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Palo Alto, and Caltrans. The federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, may provide construction funding in the future.

Interested in receiving the latest updates on the San Francisquito project? Sign-up for our e-newsletter here.


There will be a public meeting on project updates on Thursday, July 14, 2016.

Time: 6 p.m.
Location: East Palo Alto City Hall, 2415 University Ave, East Palo Alto CA 95303


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