In a special joint meeting on Friday, Nov. 3, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors and San José City Council approved a Joint Emergency Action Plan (EAP), outlining strategies and actions for agency coordination during potential flooding along waterways in San José.

Water district board chair John L. Varela said, “This is a critical step toward protecting our communities. Joining resources and ensuring clear knowledge and communication will help prevent what we saw last winter. We can’t control nature, but we can control how prepared we are. The water district and the City have been working hard to establish clear protocols to help keep residents safe.”

Mayor Sam Liccardo said, “Over the past nine months, we’ve worked diligently to improve our disaster preparedness and response so that we can better protect our residents from flooding in the future. I’d like to thank the many City and Water District staff who helped to develop this robust plan and implement a number of critical improvements ahead of the upcoming rainy season.”

Since April 2017, both agencies have been working on the action plan that guides decision-making, coordination, and communications for all levels of a flood event, beginning with year-round basic level of working on preparations and projects that reduce flood risk.

City and district staff worked to identify flood risks and hazards, develop pre-incident planning, and a response plan, including a set of public warning messages based on flood condition levels as defined by the National Weather Service.

The District and City shared elements of the EAP with the public during a series of winter resource fairs in October that targeted neighborhoods impacted by the Coyote Creek flood in February. Attendees learned about emergency preparedness; observed sandbagging demonstrations; visited the new District website at https://gis.valleywater.org/SCVWDFloodWatch/  that provides information on water levels in both Anderson Reservoir and Coyote Creek; and were invited to vote on their preferred methods for notification of an emergency as well as to sign up for AlertSCC, the emergency alert system managed by the County of Santa Clara.

Concurrent with developing the action plan, both agencies have been carrying out short-term projects to reduce flood risks before the upcoming winter. Such projects include:

  • Negotiating right-of-way agreements enabling the water district to access City property to perform limited creek management near areas that flooded last winter. Staff removed nearly 16 acres of invasive plant species to improve the creek’s natural habitat while removing potential obstructions near Old Oakland Road.
  • With funding from the City of San José, the water district is removing downed trees in priority locations on city lands.
  • In the Rock Springs neighborhood, the water district is constructing two short-term flood barriers to help reduce the risk of flooding.
  • The water district board has approved new operating parameters at Anderson and Coyote reservoirs which will create more storage space, further reducing the chance of flooding.

Additionally, to improve its capability for emergency notification, last spring the City invested in three long range acoustical devices (LRADs); these can be driven through neighborhoods and have the ability to transmit emergency messages at volume that can be heard for roughly one mile and through the walls of buildings. Communities impacted by the February flood were given a demonstration of the LRADs during the Winter Storm Resource Fairs.

Last winter’s flooding was a stark reminder of how the area’s weather can unpredictably swing from drought to floods. A silver lining: Data from the February flood has enabled improved modeling for flood stage analysis on Coyote Creek, and this has been enfolded in the new EAP.

Water district and City staff will continue regular trainings and exercises based on the EAP, and will annually review and update the plan. The joint staff report and complete EAP document is available here.

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