A groundbreaking effort to protect the San Francisco Bay from sea-level rise

By Director Richard Santos, representative for District 3

I was born and raised in Alviso and I’m proud to call it my hometown. Like so many others who have lived in this great community, I have experienced major flooding three times in my life. That experience influences my work at Valley Water and reinforces my goal of ensuring that we keep the community safe through our flood protection programs. 

I am so excited to announce that Valley Water recently reached a milestone in our decades-long effort to protect communities along the southern end of the San Francisco Bay from coastal flooding and sea-level rise due to climate change.

Sea levels in San Francisco Bay have risen nearly 8 inches in the last 100 years and continue to rise. The sea level in this area could rise as much as 3 feet over the next 50 years, and this project will help protect future generations.

In December 2021, Valley Water and its partners broke ground on the first portion of the South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Phase 1 Project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building the first section of the project’s coastal flood protection levee from Alviso Marina County Park to the Artesian Slough.

Once completed, this project will help reduce coastal flood risk for about 5,500 residents, commuters and businesses within the vicinity of Alviso and North San José. The project will also provide protection to the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater facility and the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center.

All sections of the Bay will feel the environmental benefits of the Shoreline Project. The project will restore and enhance 2,900 acres of tidal marsh and related habitat that was lost due to former salt production activities. Fish, birds, plants and other wildlife that once flourished on the edge of the Bay will slowly start returning and help create a healthier San Francisco Bay.

The project will also enhance recreation opportunities by connecting sections of the iconic San Francisco Bay Trail.

Valley Water is proud to be working on this project with our partners, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the California State Coastal Conservancy, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. On April 14, 2022, Valley Water and its partners celebrated this milestone with a ceremonial groundbreaking event.

Time and again, taxpayers have come through to fund this project. In 2018, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded $124.3 million in federal funding for the project. Since 2016, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority has awarded the project $61 million through Measure AA, a nine-county Bay Area ballot measure passed in 2016 that will generate $500 million over 20 years for wetland restoration projects. 

Local funding is also provided by Valley Water’s Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program parcel tax that was overwhelmingly approved by Santa Clara County voters in 2012 and renewed in 2020. The remaining local funds will come from Valley Water’s Watershed Stream Stewardship Fund and reimbursement from the California Department of Water Resources’ State Subventions Program.

Like all Valley Water projects, it takes a team to get things done. We couldn’t do this without Valley Water staff and our partners. We’re grateful to be working together.

We have a long, but steady road ahead of us. We are targeting the completion of the first two miles of the levee by January 2024. The work will take time. However, the results will be worth it.

To read more about this project, visit our website at https://www.valleywater.org/project-updates/creek-river-projects/E7-san-francisco-bay-shoreline-protection

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