Partnering to clean up Santa Clara County

By Vice Chair Tony Estremera, representative for District 6

We had an impressive showing at this year’s California Coastal Cleanup. Congratulations to the 862 outstanding volunteers who picked up a total of 22,215 pounds of trash and cleaned over 336 miles during socially distanced neighborhood cleanup events, held each Saturday in September! These dedicated community members hit the streets, parks, and creeks equipped with their gloves, face coverings, and trash bags to help clean our creeks and streams. Among the most common things volunteers picked up were everyday plastic items, glass bottles, and clothing.

Volunteers also collected a fair share of disposable gloves and face coverings – which is a sign of the times given the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s California Coastal Cleanup was modified in order to comply with the local public health order. What was traditionally one large cleanup effort in September became self-guided Saturday events occurring throughout the month.

Valley Water’s creek cleanup events are funded by the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2012. Measure S on the upcoming November ballot would contribute $5.1 million towards cleanup activities such as National River Cleanup Day, California Coastal Cleanup Day, the Great American Litter Pick Up, and the Adopt-A-Creek Program.

Part of keeping our waterways healthy and clean is also addressing the unhoused population. We have heard from you about the increase in encampments, trash and debris near your neighborhoods and local creeks. The COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated these issues. Valley Water will continue to work with local agencies to remove trash around encampments and will resume encampment cleanups once CDC guidelines allow. In addition, Measure S would increase the funding for encampment and trash cleanups from $4.1 million in 2012 to $38.7 million.

Although the volunteer cleanup events have ended, the work must not stop here. Keeping our creeks and streams clean does not have to be a defined event. You can help year-round by joining our Adopt-A-Creek Program. As a program participant, you can adopt sections of a creek, monitor trash and commit to at least two cleanups a year throughout the county.

The Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program also provides grants that support Santa Clara County environmental stewardship projects. Funding is available for creek cleanups, watershed education and outreach, and environmental stewardship activities. In fact, the window to apply for $900,000 in grants for these efforts is currently open and closes on December 1. Visit valleywater.org/grants to learn more.

We understand how important protecting our environment, flood protection, public health and public safety are for our community. Valley Water will continue to work to ensure we provide Silicon Valley with safe, clean water for a healthy life, environment, and economy.

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