Last June, the Santa Clara Valley Water District board of directors approved expediting and extending a flood protection project along Coyote Creek. A year later, water district staff are working expeditiously on a planning study which will result in a problem definition report by this fall. A problem definition report outlines in detail problems associated with the creek such as flooding, erosion, sedimentation, invasive vegetation growth, and areas impacted. The report also includes potential solutions to the problems. The board and project team will present this portion of the study to affected communities and solicit input that will help identify and shape alternatives for a flood risk reduction project.
The board decision last summer extended the original Coyote Creek Flood Protection Project (part of the voter-approved Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program) by 2.9 miles upstream to Tully Road, which includes the impacted Rock Springs neighborhood. The board also approved revising the target level of protection to a storm of similar magnitude to the Feb. 21, 2017 storm, which is the largest flow seen in Coyote Creek since 1950.
The planning study has already yielded some immediate actions such as the design and construction of two flood barriers between the creek and Rock Springs neighborhood to prevent intrusion of water during a storm of similar intensity that caused last year’s historic flood. These barriers reduce flood risk without redirecting flows to another area downstream and threatening other neighborhoods.
At the same time, water district staff are working on a feasibility study that will be completed with the assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This is the first effort of its kind in the country, made possible by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act passed in December 2016. Shortly after the Coyote Creek flood, water district 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. The water district will produce a feasibility study that will meet the particular requirements of the Army Corps with assistance from the Corps as needed. The cost of the study will be covered by the water district. The memorandum of agreement was finalized May of this year and work continues in pursuit of a feasible long-term project. This feasibility study will culminate in a report that will help determine whether there can be federal interest and funding for the project.
Flood risk reduction projects are a large and multi-faceted undertaking that include planning, design and construction phase, and oftentimes a permitting phase after design. In the initial stages of each project, it is crucial to gather support and evaluate existing risks, potential benefits, environmental impacts and costs. These complex project stages can take years, sometimes decades to complete. When completed, flood risk reduction projects improve a creeks’ capacity to withstand heavy storm flows and protect homes and businesses, as seen with the improvements to the lower portions of Coyote Creek and the lower and downtown portions of Guadalupe River.
Despite the complicated requirements of a feasibility study to meet Corps requirements, water district engineers are working diligently on identifying short and intermediate term actions that would reduce flood risks for vulnerable areas along Coyote Creek. To stay up to date on the Coyote Creek Flood Protection Project, sign-up for email updates.