Local officials will present preliminary designs for a project to prevent sections of San Francisquito Creek from flooding at a public workshop Wednesday evening (July 21) in East Palo Alto. The "SF Bay to Highway 101" project is aimed at protecting the Bay side of the highway from disastrous floods and may also increase recreational opportunities for residents.
At the workshop, staff from the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority and technical specialists will explain plans, answer questions and take public feedback.
"It's important to hear from people about whether the proposed improvements are adequate and whether they improve the environment in which they're living," said East Palo Alto Vice Mayor Carlos Romero, an alternate member on the Authority's board.
East Palo Alto residents should attend to ensure that the city, up to one-third of which lies in a floodplain, has a voice in discussions, Romero said.
Proposals to prevent flooding include widening the creek in certain sections, removing obstacles blocking water flow into the Baylands tidal marsh and improving the floodwater capacity of Caltrans' planned bridge over the creek.
Officials will also gauge interest in creating a linear park, a trail linking the creek to the Bay Trail or other recreational areas. Construction is slated to begin next year, according East Palo Alto councilman Ruben Abrica, an Authority board member.
The project will tackle the creek's most flood-prone area, where large volumes of water flowing downstream may meet high tides, he said.
A high-volume flood could inundate most of East Palo Alto and large sections of Palo Alto, Abrica said.
"The freeway would be shut down. There'd be a lot of displaced people. … Definitely properties would be damaged tremendously, and it wouldn't just be people living right along the creek," Abrica said.
The probability is that such a flood will occur once in every 100 years.
"It's like the earthquake," Abrica said. "We know that at some point it's going to happen, but we don't know exactly when."
The creek last triggered major floods in February 1998, causing more than $40 million in property damage.
Officials are hoping "the big one" is at least a few years away.
"We're just hoping it won't occur until we've been able to do something here," Abrica said. "But we're on our way."
Community members have already weighed in on the project at council meetings in East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Menlo Park and can give input at a second public workshop this fall or at the Authority's Thursday evening board meetings, which rotate among the three cities.
The cities, along with the Santa Clara Valley Water District and San Mateo County Flood Control District, formed the Authority in 1999 to collaboratively improve flood protection and recreational benefits for communities living along the creek's 30,000-acre watershed. Future projects will address flood prevention between U.S. Highway 101 and El Camino Real and upstream water retention.
Wednesday's two-hour workshop will begin at 7 p.m. in East Palo Alto City Council chambers at 2415 University Ave.