In October, the Santa Clara Valley Water District made great strides in preparing Coyote Creek for the winter. Construction started on two flood barriers in the Rock Springs neighborhood in San Jose. District crews are installing a vinyl sheet pile wall of up to 3-feet tall and 500 feet long, and constructing an earthen berm of up to 5-feet tall and 400 feet long to help prevent the intrusion of water. These will be completed by approximately the end of December. While these walls will not eliminate the flood risks to this area, they will help reduce the chance of flooding from a storm like the one we experienced last February.
On Oct. 10, the Board of Directors also voted to operate Anderson Reservoir at a lower level this year than in past years, which will reduce the risk of flooding downstream. Last year while still in a drought, the water district followed normal operating rules to stay below the Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD) restrictions. The improved water supply resulting from last winter’s above-average precipitation will allow us to operate the reservoir at lower levels than in past years while meeting water supply needs of the county.
The water district has also been working closely with the City of San Jose on various measures to reduce flood risks along Coyote Creek on city-owned property. Recently the water district has received permission from the city to perform limited creek management on city-owned property between Old Oakland Road and Tully Road, which includes neighborhoods that flooded last winter. The water district will remove downed trees in priority locations identified by city staff. Work has begun and will continue until rains become too heavy and affect working conditions in the creek.
In August, the city allowed the water district access to the creek on city property which will allow us to remove up to 16 acres of invasive plant species along Coyote Creek to improve the creek’s natural habitat. This large effort will remove vast amounts of Arundo donax, a thick, giant reed which can obstruct the flow of water and trap woody debris during storms, creating dams and contributing to the risk of flooding.
In addition to this collaboration, both agencies have been developing a Joint Emergency Action Plan (EAP) to define a critical strategy for how the city and district prepare for, communicate and respond to flooding on Coyote Creek as well as other waterways.
The water district has been pursuing all possibilities to reduce flood risks and help protect vulnerable communities before the winter season. The efforts started as early as May with the Board of Directors pursuing all options for a flood protection project along Coyote Creek. During a trip to Washington D.C. in the spring, the board identified an opportunity to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a feasibility study to assess flood risks and evaluate a federally supported project. In August, the board hosted key leaders from the Corps on a tour of the Rock Springs Playground which was submerged in up to 2 feet of water during the February flood. Both agencies are working on finalizing a memorandum of agreement for the study.
It has been a busy summer for water district crews, who have been busy removing trash and debris, and preparing the creek for the invasive vegetation removal. In June, they completed a levee repair at the South Bay Mobile Home Park community near Old Oakland Road. With fall upon us, we continue working diligently to prepare for the winter. You can read more about our efforts over the last nine months in The Mercury News.
We encourage you to prepare for winter as well by taking measures to protect your family and home. Take the time to prepare your family emergency plan and to gather supplies for your emergency kit. Consider purchasing flood insurance to protect your property and personal items. For more tips on flood safety, visit www.valleywater.org/floodready.