By Director Nai Hsueh, Valley Water Board of Directors
Each winter, thousands of homes, businesses and schools in Sunnyvale are susceptible to flooding from the Sunnyvale East and West channels overtopping during major storms. These channels were constructed in the 1960s as local storm drains, but a combination of heavy storm events, land subsidence and inadequate drainage has caused the area to flood five times in the last 60 years. That’s why Valley Water is embarking on the Sunnyvale East and West Channels Flood Protection Project to provide enhanced flood protection to more than 1,600 neighboring properties and approximately 47 acres of valuable industrial and government lands. Construction is set to begin in 2024.
As part of this effort, Valley Water partnered with Google on an enhancement project along 1,100 linear feet of the Sunnyvale West Channel from Caribbean Drive upstream to Caspian Court, where Google is building a new state-of-the-art campus. Recently, I toured the portion of the enhancement project completed by Google, which required the removal of 100,000 cubic yards of dirt through 10,000 truckloads. The concrete work alone required over 30,000 labor hours.
The result of this massive effort, completed in just six months, is impressive. Google’s contractor widened the existing channel from 50 feet to 250 feet at its widest point and raised the levee elevation from 11 feet to 18 feet. The planting of native vegetation will also improve wildlife habitats along the West Channel and provide recreational opportunities per the City of Sunnyvale’s Master Trail Plan.
Meanwhile, we continue our work on the overall project, with completion slated for December 2025. The Sunnyvale West Channel is approximately three miles long, stretching from Maude Avenue to Guadalupe Slough. The Sunnyvale East Channel is about six and a half miles from Interstate 280 to Guadalupe Slough. The project includes the replacement of a culvert at Carl Avenue and a bridge at East Caribbean Drive, installing floodwalls and raising the levee to provide 100-year flood protection to the neighboring properties.
The Sunnyvale East and West Channels Flood Protection Project is one of several projects to receive funding under the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program, renewed by voters in 2020. As we prepare and adapt to climate change and extreme weather events, we thank you for supporting these important initiatives to keep our community safe from flooding.