Sunnyvale East West Channels looking upstream from Java Drive.

Valley Water getting Sunnyvale flood protection project ready for construction

By Director Richard P. Santos, representative for District 3

As the flood protection authority for Santa Clara County, Valley Water is committed to keeping residents and businesses safe from flooding. We are working on several projects aimed at providing flood protection to homes, schools, businesses and highways to keep our communities safe.

One such project is the Sunnyvale East and West Channels Flood Protection Project. These channels were constructed in the 1960s by Valley Water as local storm drains with approximately a 10-year level of flood protection. A 10-year flood has a 10% chance of happening in any given year. 

Each winter, thousands of households, businesses and schools in Sunnyvale are susceptible to flooding from the Sunnyvale East and West channels during a major storm. Since their construction, the storm drain channels have experienced flooding during major storm events in 1963, 1968, 1983, 1986 and 1998.

The flood protection project’s design is almost finished, and staff is now working to secure all the permits that we’ll need to do the work. We are aiming to start construction in late 2021 and anticipate the project being completed by the end of 2023.

Once completed, this project will protect 1,618 homes and 47 acres of industrial and government lands from a 100-year flood event (which has a 1% chance of happening in any given year). 

The Sunnyvale West Channel is approximately three miles long and stretches from Maude Avenue to Guadalupe Slough. The Sunnyvale East Channel is approximately six and a half miles long and stretches from Interstate 280 to Guadalupe Slough.

Some of the proposed flood protection measures for this project include:

  • Raising the existing levees
  • Constructing floodwalls
  • Replacing the bridge and culvert at Caribbean Drive (East Channel) and Carl Road (West Channel)
  • Stabilizing the existing bank to reduce erosion
  • Relocating existing utilities so they line up with the proposed flood protection improvements

This project will also provide for recreational opportunities in accordance with the City of Sunnyvale’s Master Trail Plan.

And Valley Water is continuing efforts to partner with Google on an enhancement project along a stretch of the Sunnyvale West Channel from Caribbean Drive to Caspian Court that would be constructed as part of their proposed development project. The collaboration will allow Valley Water to install on-site mitigation plantings of native vegetation to offset construction impacts while improving habitat along the West Channel.

The Sunnyvale East and West Channels Flood Protection Project is one of several programs and projects to receive funding under the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program (Safe, Clean Water Program), which was approved by voters in 2012. The Safe, Clean Water Program provides the Sunnyvale East and West Channels Flood Protection Project with $70 million in funding.

In July 2020, the Valley Water Board of Directors voted unanimously to place a renewal of the Safe, Clean Water Program, now known as Measure S, on the Nov. 3 ballot. If approved by voters, Measure S would fund several projects and programs that provide Santa Clara County residents and businesses with a safe, reliable water supply now and into the future.

Measure S also would fund upgrades to pipelines, dams, and critical water infrastructure to improve the reliability of our water supplies and help prepare for the risk of flooding, droughts, earthquakes, natural disasters, and climate change. The updated program would continue to reduce toxins, hazards, and contaminants in our rivers, lakes, and streams through pollution prevention and creek cleanup efforts.

To learn more about the Sunnyvale East and West Channels Flood Protection Project, visit valleywater.org. You can also find out more about the proposed renewal of the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program at safecleanwater.org.

Use water wisely,

Richard P. Santos

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