By Tony Estremera, representative for District 6
Since late February, Valley Water has closely monitored the COVID-19 crisis to ensure our organization continues to perform its primary functions of delivering safe, clean water to Santa Clara County, and providing flood protection to homes and businesses across our community.
Over the past several months our organization has also engaged in emergency repairs to critical infrastructure while striving to minimize impacts to our water delivery system.
Valley Water’s ability to quickly respond to a variety of emergencies is possible because of our continuous work in emergency preparedness. We are ready to respond to emergencies such as power shutoffs, damaged pipelines or any other number of hazards that may arise, to allow us to fulfill the needs of our organization to serve the community.
Valley Water is also ready to respond to emergencies under our purview such as damage or operational issues with our pipelines, dams and reservoirs or other infrastructure. We maintain emergency action plans for our reservoirs and many of our streams, which are reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
Following the flooding along Coyote Creek in 2017, Valley Water collaborated with the City of San José to take our existing Emergency Action Plan and create a combined plan to define a strategy for how the agencies prepare for, communicate and respond to flooding on Coyote Creek, as well as other waterways. We continue to collaborate with the City of San José in this effort.
As part of our mission to provide flood protection to our community, we are always preparing for the possibility of a flood event. We work year-round to keep the 275 miles of streams in Santa Clara County owned and managed by Valley Water ready for winter storm runoff. We remove sediment build-up, manage vegetation, clear trash and debris, and stabilize banks that have eroded during high water flows.
In the event there is heavy rain, we track incoming storms and closely watch “hot spot” areas in our county that are prone to flooding.
Although we don’t directly respond to emergencies such as COVID-19 like the Public Health Department or medical facilities do, we must closely monitor those events to minimize interruptions to our day-to-day operations and staffing levels. Valley Water has procedures and roadmaps in place to best position us to get through these types of events with minimal impact to our business continuity. With the potential for widespread absenteeism due to COVID-19, ensuring that our specially trained staff remain healthy and available to operate our water treatment plants is critical.
In the past six months Valley Water has responded to far-reaching emergencies – COVID-19 and the Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) – which resulted in the activation of our Emergency Operation Center. This is a central hub that brings together various parts of Valley Water’s functions and allows for clear communication and coordinated action within the organization. That means we can respond to emergencies faster, communicate important information quickly and address issues as they arise.
During this stay-at-home order, the Emergency Operation Center is operating virtually to support social distancing best practices and help limit the spread of COVID-19.
In February, Valley Water identified a leak on the Milpitas Pipeline in East San Jose, which supplies treated water to our north San José and Milpitas service areas and is our sole connection to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s intertie facility. Because this is a critical pipeline, the Board declared an emergency to allow for rapid deployment of resources to complete repairs.
We quickly identified a contractor to help determine the extent of the problem and begin work on this emergency repair. Crews worked onsite for extended hours and days to expedite this repair and concluded the repair and patchwork in about one week. The contractor is now replacing the roadway that was torn apart to gain access to the pipeline, and that work is expected to be completed by mid-May.
What we’ve learned from recent emergency events, the PSPS and our current public health crisis, is that we are likely going to be dealing with more emergencies that threaten to disrupt our business continuity.
Please know that Valley Water consistently prepares to respond to a variety of emergencies in order to continue delivering a reliable supply of water to our community and provide flood protection to residents and businesses no matter what situation may arise.
Submitted on behalf of Valley Water Vice Chair Tony Estremera, District 6, the San Jose neighborhoods of Alum Rock, Seven Trees and other areas of San Jose (generally city council districts 5, 7 and parts of 3).