On Tuesday, June 13, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors took action to speed up a flood protection project along Coyote Creek that would reduce flood risks for vulnerable areas along Coyote Creek, including the Rock Springs Neighborhood. Modifications will allow the water district to use local funding to work actively on reducing flood risks along one of Santa Clara County’s largest creeks.

After a public hearing on Tuesday, the board approved modifications to the original Coyote Creek Flood Protection Project, part of the voter-approved Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program. The modifications include extending the project area by 2.9 miles upstream to Tully Road, revising the target protection from a 100-year flood event to a 20 to 25-year flood event, and identifying and implementing short-term flood relief solutions prior to the 2017-2018 winter season. The board also voted to form a community task force to foster community engagement in these efforts.

The board will continue to pursue state and federal funding avenues for the project, having recently returned from meeting with congressional delegates in Washington D.C. to obtain federal support. In addition, the water district is advocating for streamlined regulatory permitting processes, which often delay flood protection and water supply projects. With the new board-approved project modifications, the water district can advance the project while continuing to evaluate opportunities to provide a 100-year flood protection project to remove parcels from FEMA designated flood zones.

“The water district is committed to reducing flood risks and protecting homes and properties,” said Board Chair John Varela. “We will do all we can to advance flood protection efforts and prevent the devastation we saw this past winter.”

The Coyote Creek Project was included in the 15-year special parcel tax Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan approved by voters in November 2000, with $32 million allocated to the project. The project aimed to provide 100-year flood protection for areas along Coyote Creek from Montague Expressway to Highway 280. The original project scope did not include areas that experienced damage from the February 2017 flooding event.

In the early 2000s the water district completed a planning study and preliminary design for the Coyote Creek Project with approximately $10 million allocated from the Clean, Safe Creeks program. Based on the study, the proposed project would cost between $500 million and $1 billion. The water district attempted to obtain a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for federal financial support, including for a project in the Rock Springs area, but was unsuccessful after multiple attempts.

Without additional secured funding, the water district could not pursue a flood protection project to completion. When the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program was approved by voters in 2012, the Coyote Creek Project carried over with its original scope. However, the project did not receive additional funding from the special parcel tax.

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