News

Flood-control project stymied by regional water board

Work around San Francisquito Creek awaits water board's approval

For more than a decade, officials from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park have been drawing up plans, scouring for funds and performing environmental studies on a project that would finally bring flood protection to residents around the volatile San Francisquito Creek.

Now, with money and designs in place, the three cities find themselves staring at an unexpected and formidable obstacle: a permitting process that has already pushed construction at least until next year and that has local officials seething about the bureaucratic mess they now find themselves in.

The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, which includes elected officials from the three cities as well as representatives from the San Mateo Flood Control District and the Santa Clara Valley Water District, has been stuck in bureaucratic limbo since February, when it learned that its request for a permit had been denied by the Regional Water Quality Control Board. In the months since, staffs from the creek authority and the water board have met numerous times in hopes of resolving the impasse. Each time, the water board has requested new information, brought up fresh problems with the design and "moved the goalposts," according to creek authority officials, who have been increasingly frustrated.

Though top officials from both the water board and the creek authority told the Weekly recently that they're getting closer to the finish line, the months of delays have already precluded the possibility of any significant work being done on the levees around the channel this year. Even if the water board were to issue a permit in the next few months -- a time frame Executive Officer Bruce Wolfe said is very possible -- construction will be limited to relocation of utilities and other projects ancillary to the channel. That's because the presence of steelhead trout prohibits work in the channel after mid-October.

The permit delay has created a bottleneck for a project that neighborhoods in all three cities have been looking forward to since 1998, when a February flood damaged about 1,700 properties. Things became more promising over the past two years, as the creek authority began its effort to rebuild bridges along the creek to increase water capacity and as Caltrans began planning for modifications to U.S. Highway 101, which was inundated with water in 1998. But the most ambitious and urgent project is the one that targets the flood-prone area between 101 and San Francisco Bay. The project entails widening the creek channel by rebuilding and modifying levees; removing sediment to create a new marsh plain; and building walls near flood-prone homes and businesses. Provided, of course, the creek authority gets the permit.

The delay is not only causing ongoing flood risk to the area, it is also costing the City of Palo Alto financially. The city plans to redesign the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, since the downstream flood project would place a levee on a portion of the course. The renovation would relocate most of the holes, emphasize the course's Baylands setting and create what council members call "the 'wow' factor." The project, however, is now also stalling because of the permit snag. Though the city has repeatedly asked the water board to consider its application for the golf-course renovation separately from the flood-control project, the board has insisted that the projects are too closely related and is declining to give the city a permit until the flood-control project's design is finalized.

With a portion of the course now closed in anticipation of construction that has yet to commence, the course is losing between $50,000 and $60,000 a month, City Manager James Keene said during a budget hearing earlier this month. Nonetheless, the council plans to authorize Keene on Monday to sign a $9 million construction contract for the golf course reconfiguration. That's because bid that the city received from Duinick, Inc., is set to expire in mid-July, Keene told the Weekly.

The golf-course permit uncertainty aside, the main source of frustration for Keene and other city leaders revolves around the flood-control effort. It took years for the cities to work up an agreement about the downstream project and to identify funding sources. Other regulating agencies appear to be on board, as are elected officials from all three cities and the two water districts on either side of the creek. The city's negotiations with the water board, meanwhile, remain at a virtual deadlock, with requests for new design alternatives and more information repeatedly flummoxing creek-authority officials.

"Time doesn't seem to matter to water board staff," Keene told the Weekly. "Unfortunately, time matters very much to the families living along the creek in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto and Menlo Park."

In some cases, Keene said, the water board appears to be going far beyond its purview in assessing projects for water-quality impacts and requesting design alternatives that aren't practicable.

"They need to be sure that the requests they're making are aligned with their responsibilities, which pertain to water quality. They can deal with issues of habitats, we understand this, but you can't make requests that extend beyond that, particularly if they can't be done and they're holding up a project."

At their last meeting on May 22, several members of the creek authority's board of directors voiced frustrations with the tortuous path the permit process has taken and accused the water board of repeatedly changing targets and requesting new information. Palo Alto Councilman Pat Burt advocated submitting a letter formally protesting the latest requests and accusing the water board for reneging on its March commitment, when it requested information with the tacit understanding that provision of the data would complete the process.

"I don't think we should just acquiesce to this," Burt said.

That information request was based on the water board's February letter initially rejecting the project, which stated that the creek authority needed to provide volumes of materials to get the permit. Some information pertained to alternatives that the creek authority had considered in the past but discarded as infeasible. These include the use of land at the Palo Alto Airport for water discharge (which the creek authority said would require the construction of four new levees and would not be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration); upstream projects that would improve water quality (a tough assignment given that most upstream land is privately owned by Stanford University); and reduced discharge of flood water into the marshy Faber Tract. Other requests were both broad and vague, including a requirement that the creek authority provide "a complete set of technical reports and corresponding data."

The requests came as a surprise to the creek authority, which -- according to an appeal it filed -- had been informed by the regional board in September 2013 that its application was complete. Furthermore, most of the issues were not raised by the water board during the comment period for the downstream project's Environmental Impact Report, which analyzed and discarded some of the options that the water board in March said should be studied.

-------------------------------

The creek authority finds itself in this predicament despite having filed a formal appeal in March after the water board first rejected its application for a permit. The authority requested, however, that the complaint be held in abeyance (not acted on at this time) so that it could negotiate with the water board.

The creek authority's March appeal accused the regional board for continuing the request that the JPA provide it "with an ever changing menu of substantial additional information." Staff from the two agencies met or had conference calls on at least five occasions between September and February. But the water board's requests continued to change, making it tough to fulfill the requirements, the creek authority maintains.

"The conversations led to broad staff requests whose lack of specificity made measurable compliance effectively impossible, such as the request for a 'complete set of technical reports and corresponding date.' The conversations also involved staff requests that the JPA analyze new and shifting project alternatives -- including those that were impracticable on their face, such as a proposed alternative requiring reconfiguration of the nearby airport runway, a hugely expensive undertaking to a facility under the dominion of the FAA."

In both the appeal and in its letters to the water board, the creek authority has stressed the urgency of the project and the danger presented by further delays.

"Because of the continuously degraded condition of the existing, uncertified levees, every winter season that transpires before the project is complete brings an increased risk of danger to the JPA communities," the appeal states. "Moreover, this danger extends beyond those most commonly associated with the ever-present flood risk."

The denial of the application also threatens water quality, the appeal argues.

"Under current conditions, flood flows pass through homes, garages, businesses and streets before being discharged into the San Francisco Bay," the appeal states. "After the project is built, these waters will flow over a broad new marsh constructed within the San Francisquito Creek channel."

In addition to the appeal, the creek authority offered a point-by-point response to the water board's rejection letter, which argued that delaying the project based on the idea that Stanford's upstream land could be used for water detention is "unfair and dangerous to a community that has experienced multiple floods." Upstream detention, the response notes, is part of the creek authority's broader long-term effort.

"However, we must not hold up a proposed project that eliminates an immediate threat to life and property in an underserved community by waiting for an upstream detention project by a private entity that is far off in the future, or may never happen," the response states. "Particularly when the proposed project also improves environmental conditions."

Since the February rejection, staff from the water board and the creek authority had met March, April and May. In March, after a conversation with the water board's Wolfe, creek authority Executive Director Len Materman informed his agency's board that he believes he now has a specific understanding of that exactly needs to be provided for the permit process to be completed. The board asked that he explore two alternatives: a new widened channel in the northern part of the project, where the airport meets the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course; and a new bypass channel that would divert flow toward the Baylands Athletic Channel. Materman told the creek authority's board in March that his agency will meet these requests.

"Hopefully, that means the goal posts are no longer moving," Materman said.

That hope, however, didn't last long. On May 21, staff from the two groups met with representatives from other regulatory agencies such as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers and BCDC. The following day, Materman informed his agency's board of directors that the water board requested at that meeting even more information, including models showing water runs for 9,400 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the Faber Tract, rather than the 7,400 cfs that the creek authority calculated would flow into the area.

Materman also said that the water board requested that the creek authority fill in and even out sections of levees at the Faber Tract, a project that the creek authority has agreed to do. The board also asked for analysis of two alternatives, one that would widen the creek mouth near the Faber Tract and another that would create a bypass at Embarcadero Road.

After giving his report, Materman was asked by Board Member Kirsten Keith, a Menlo Park councilwoman, whether he was surprised by these requests from the water board, given his prior discussions with the board's executive director.

"Given how this has gone, it wasn't surprising," Materman responded. "When we met with the executive officer on March 19, we thought we had the final list and we talked about the issue that the goal posts have been moving on the project -- the regional water board's goal posts. It's a little surprising they continue to move, given that."

Burt cited Materman's meeting in March with Wolfe and observed that the requests now coming from the water board go well beyond what was requested then. There have been "a number of times where we had an understanding and then we were surprised by what we subsequently saw as a change in requirements after we thought we had agreements."

At the May 22 meeting, Materman acknowledged that because of the permit delays there will be no levee reconstruction in the channel this year.

"The only thing we can probably do within the creek channel this year is utility relocation and that is getting really tight too," Materman said.

Wolfe told the Weekly that the water board and the creek authority have narrowed their differences in the weeks since. The creek authority, he said, no longer objects to the 9,400 cfs standard (Materman said the project was always designed to meet this flow, but the creek authority used the 7,400 cfs number because that is the flow it expected given other projects in the area). The water board, meanwhile, is no longer requesting projects that require the use of airport land. The water board, he said, is not trying to slow the project down. He also said that the additional materials his staff has been requesting is consistent with the design changes he had discussed with Materman in March.

"We're trying to do it what we can keep it moving," Wolfe said. "We're not trying to stand in the way."

Wolfe also said the agency is getting "close" on the golf course project. He said the board will not require the permit for the creek project to be completed before it releases the permit for the golf course renovation. It does, however, need to work out a few more details with the city about the renovation.

"Depending on how this week's meetings go, we might be in a position to say, OK, we know sufficiently well what the design is going to be (for the flood-control project) and how it will impact the golf course and we can move forward with the project on the golf course," Wolfe told the Weekly.

Wolfe said his agency's staff was expecting to meet with creek authority's on June 12 to discuss the latest design modifications. One of the remaining concerns is making sure that the design doesn't impact the marsh.

"We're optimistic that we're getting close to the design that can be considered the least environmentally damaging practical alternative," Wolfe said.

But after numerous requests from the water board for more information and new alternatives, Materman is less optimistic. He noted that other regulatory agencies, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Army Corps have already effectively approved the project but are waiting for the water board's permit before they issue their own. It didn't help that the June 12 meeting ended up being canceled by the water board because the agency's staff said it had "more questions," Materman said. The meeting has now been rescheduled or July 1.

"I think we're getting closer, but if the question is 'Are we there?' No," Materman told the Weekly. "Do I have confidence that regional water board will not ask for new things? No."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Norman Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 8:35 am

If the El Nino causes a big flood this fall, the Water Board, among others, will be faced with the mother of all inverse condemnation lawsuits.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Little Boy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 9:07 am

The El Nino predicted this year has been reported to not be strong enough to influence an over normal amount of rain fall. I'll take normal, but don't hold out hopes for a big wet winter.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 20, 2014 at 9:55 am

At the meeting 10 June 2014 at the Headquarters -Santa Clara Valley Water District - funding was approved to initiate work on the Creek from 101 to the Baylands, as well as work on the bridges up to El Camino. If the director of the SCVWD set the meeting, got the funding, then why weren't the representatives from the other agencies present? The funding is limited so the number of tasks that can be accomplished is specific to the most obvious fixes that can be accomplished before winter.

The speakers had some conflicts in the approach on the bridges and type reinforcement of the creek to prevent dislodge of soil so there was not a unified approach from the speakers.

It is unclear from the article what is suppose to be accomplished in the short-term. Is there a site where the most current data is available?

Side Note: I was at the baylands Sunday at high tide and the place was inundated with water. Water was traveling up the creek by the baseball park so even in the summer there is a lot of water moving - I am assuming this is sea water moving upstream - not lake water moving downstream.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:38 am

Another observation - at the SCVWD meeting one speaker represented the homeless and was hoping that the creek would be designed so that the homeless could transit in and out. That stopped me in my tracks. Why are we designing a creek for homeless people when the whole point of this meeting is flood control and trying to provide an ecologically safe environment for the safety of the homes and people affected by flooding, as well as enjoying the natural beauty of the stream and place for fish and wildlife to live. Personally - the fish and people in the area do not need homeless people in the creek with their "stuff" which fowls the water.

Also the discussion was concerned with dredging the creek, clearing it and fixing the bridges. There was no discussion of the airport and golf course.

It looks like we have too many agendas here - some obvious and some not so obvious that are confusing the issue. No bait and switch allowed here. Funneling money to non-profits to pull out trees and replant trees?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 12:10 pm

I can't believe wanting to waste more money on San Franciscquito Creek flood control. We have been paying money for the last 20 years on flood control and actions done to mitigate floods. Enough is enough. This is again one of the endless government welfare states where work is started but never done. As you all remember the work on a El Camino bridge was done wrong and had to be done over, wasting a year in the completion of the work. Its done now.
The closing of the golf course is idiocy and cutting down more than 100 mature trees so PA can redo the look of the golf course is idiocy.
Not another penny on this nonsense. Thank god someone in the Regional Water Quality Control Board vetoed this project and sees that it is just another welfare program that is unnecessary and will never end.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 12:23 pm

The Article and commentary miss a basic point.

FOR 16 YEARS THE DEBATE HAS GONE ON ABOUT HOW TO MITIGATE THE FLOODING. THE PROBLEM HAS BEEN EXPLORED AT EVERY ANGLE AND INPUT HAS BEEN LISTENED TO FROM VIRTUALLY EVERY SOURCE.

THE EXCEPTION: The water board!!!!!!!!

These people have done nothing for 16 years. The JPA has explored ever angle, every problem, every point of view, met numerous times while the water board has been doing nothing - nada - no participation. As far as I can tell these people do not even read a newspaper because all the issues they raise have been considered in numerous PUBLIC meetings and articles in the news media.

The members of the water board need to take a careful look at themselves and how they manage their duties.

I am very disappointed in their conduct in this matter and the members need to assess why they are on this board and how they are going to address water issues. They are being paid to work and read and should be ashamed of themselves for not participating earlier so we would not be rehashing the same issues that were dealt with over the last 16 years!!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pecuniac
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Palo Alto is getting a Karmic message. The frustration the officials feel who are involved with the creek project is like the frustration contractors and homeowner feel when dealing with the "tortuous path the permit process has taken and .... of repeatedly changing targets and requesting new information."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jon Richards
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 1:49 pm

I sent the following to the Regional Water Resources Board at info2@waterboards.ca.gov.
Dear Board Members:

You can appreciate, I expect, how those of us who are immediately affected by San Francisquito Creek have been elated by the improbable-but-true mitigation agreement of the Joint Powers Authority. Then we learned that your staff has brought the process to a near stand-still with a barrage of redesign and other requests. What a disappointment! What a discouraging, unexpected bureaucratic delay.

Yet, I have reviewed the Regional Water Board web site. I have scanned the bios of the S.F. Bay Area Board members. I am a strong supporter of your mandate and I am impressed with the qualifications of your members. So I conclude that your staff is conscientiously doing what it is supposed to do. I don't know why your staff is just now getting involved. At this point, I don't need to know. I do have two suggestions:
Respond publicly to articles like this one in the Palo Alto Weekly. Consider explanatory letters to the three city counsels and, perhaps, in a mailing to residents. I would expect that your responsibilities include informing the public when issues like this one are controversial (and frustrating).
Press your staff to put this matter at the top of their priority list and keep the pressure on. The longer your process drags on the less interested we are in understanding the reasons.

Respectfully,
Jon Richards
1031 Hamilton Ave. (flooded in 1996)
Palo Alto


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 20, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Do we need permission to change the bridges? A lot of time has been spent to analyze the bridges - can't we do that on current funding provided? People there knew exactly which bridges were a problem.

Dredge the creek below the 101 bridge so more water can move through there - we can do that ourselves on the funding provided. On Adobe Creek they bring in a truck periodically and scoop up the vegetation and dirt that has come down in the rains - so dredging and clearing some vegetation is not something we need to ask permission for. It is something done already. You cannot have excess vegetation rolling down the creek and compounding at certain points causing the flooding.

Forget taking the trees out on the golf course - the trees anchor the soil - they are needed. If you pull them out the whole place will slide into the airport and bay. If I can figure that out then the city already knows that. They are beautiful trees. Is some non-profit getting the job to do that? You don't have the money for that. That is a disaster in the making.

From where I am sitting you can fix the bridges that need it and dredge the creek so it is deeper, and clear some vegetation along the sides. I see a lot of dead vegetation in there - get it out.

You can do that now and make a big improvement - and the SCVWD gave you some funding to do that. If one agency gave you permission then go for the obvious risk mitigation efforts now. There is a SCVWD manager for that creek so coordinate with him and go get it done.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Have to agree with pecuniac. Think it is ironic that Palo Alto officials are put through a version of the " Palo Alto process" that they seem to have no problem with when it is them changing targets and requesting more information.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jacob Beamer
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Many of the full water board details are posted at
Web Link
This page contains many recent and select documents pertaining to permit applications, environmental assessments, technical reports, Regional Water Board regulatory actions, stakeholder communications, Regional Water Board memos, and correspondence.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by trish
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2014 at 8:01 pm

The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board website for this project went live this afternoon. Go to: Web Link

then click on San Francisquito

Also, since construction for the Caltrans channel widening project under Highway 101 and both frontage roads was delayed until 2015, there is no new risk from upstream flows for the creek segment between 101 and the Bay


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brian Schmidt
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:08 pm

I am the Santa Clara Valley Water District Director representing Palo Alto and other parts of northern Santa Clara County. I've been very involved with this project including the June 10 meeting mentioned by Resident 1 above in the third comment.

I want to re-emphasize for those new to this that the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors (SCVWD) and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (water board) are two completely different agencies. We at SCVWD are ready to move forward with this project, as are the cities neighboring San Francisquito Creek. It's the regional water board that hasn't yet approved the permit, a decision so far being made by staff of the water board.

The June 10th at SCVWD included a lot of commentary by concerned citizens about how potential flood protection changes to bridges could be done upstream of Highway 101. While it's appropriate for residents to weigh in on that long-term issue, the only project that's ready to go now, if we get the permit from the water board, is for construction of flood protection downstream of Highway 101. It's important to keep those separate issues in mind. Representatives of other government agencies from along the creek were there and support moving forward. The one substantive holdup prior to putting the project out to bid is obtaining the permit from the Regional Water Board.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:13 pm

We're being water boarded.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2014 at 3:36 am

Marie is a registered user.

Why can't any of our local elected representatives and water boards stand up to Stanford? The Regional Water Boards pointed out, quite correctly, that upstream improvements are the best way to prevent flooding. Stanford has refused to cooperate in any way with projects that would prevent flood waters from coming downstream in the first place. Why can't the local governments use eminent domain to solve this problem? Why spend mega millions on levees before even finding out what upstream improvements would cost?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 21, 2014 at 7:47 am

As a homeowner in PA and also other interests in California I am continually advised by the Insurance companies, utility companies, and local newspapers of the responsibility of the homeowner to clear all dead brush for fire protection, repair any road work / bridges that would inhibit the passage of safety vehicles, and where there are creeks make sure all trash is cleared and dead brush removed. If that does not happen then any claim for damages will be revoked. In PA we had to repair our driveways because the insurance companies required it.

My son lives in the Oakland Hills where continual tree management is an issue, and helps clear creeks and rebuild trails. There are whole groups of very smart people who donate time to keep their local areas tended and clean. They do not get paid for this. They are not a non-profit.

Cleaning the creek - keeping it tended of dry brush, over grown vegetation, and properly maintained so that water can flow correctly is part of what a city does.
I see trash under the 101 bridge, dead vegetation, and build up of dirt coming down that needs to be dredged to promote the movement of water.

Isn't that what the utility company is paid to do? Isn't that the basic requirement of the city to perform those services?

The golf course removal of trees is a bad idea - any disruption in the root systems that hold the ground together is going to be a disaster. It will also destabilize the soil which is being moved around now - big piles of loose dirt - WOW - a person has to wonder. Build up the loose dirt slightly higher then watch it slide down - how much money is being spent for that.
Right now focus on cleaning up what you have - and get the bridges approved for replacement. There needs to be a priority list - not a bunch of disconnected agendas that no one agrees on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 21, 2014 at 9:47 am

Its pretty simple.
The bridge should be designed to withstand a 100 year flood, not a 30 year flood.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Save The Oaks
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 21, 2014 at 11:22 am

As Brian Schmidt points out, the only project that's ready to go now is the construction of flood protection downstream (east) of Highway 101. This project, and the Caltrans Highway 101 Bridge replacement project are not likely to start until 2015 and be complete in 2017.

A funding agreement and proposed budget is now approved by the cities of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and the Santa Clara County Water District.

The funding agreement covers the 100-year flood protection project downstream (east) of Highway 101 and proposes a budget for multiple flood protection projects upstream (west) of Highway 101. The funding agreement and budget total to about $53M.

Construction of the $38M downstream project is not likely to start until the summer of 2015. Timing of this downstream project is uncertain since the JPA is in the process of negotiating final modifications to the downstream design to obtain the necessary state and federal permits, including that of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

DEIRs (Draft Environmental Impact Reports) for the $7M in-creek-channel and creek-bank widening work along Woodland Avenue, the $4M Pope/Chaucer Bridge replacement project and the $4M Newell Road Bridge replacement project are expected later this year.

Not included in this funding agreement is the Caltrans Highway 101 (and frontage roads) Bridge replacement project that includes increasing the creek's flow capacity at that location. Construction to enlarge the channel under Highway 101 is not likely to start until 2015 and be complete in 2017.

More info at the Save The Oaks Blog Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 21, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Thank you for that great information. 101 under the bridge and east need some removal of silt. That is not an enlargement - that is a cleaning of the existing channel. Brian - isn't that job within the current Statement of Work for what your organization is responsible for?

What is the Statement of Work for the SCVDW under the current criteria - what are you on the hook for as part of your organization's job?

I wish everyone would drive over at high tide and look at this whole situation. Equipment is pushing huge amounts of dirt around at the "soccer field" by the ball park. And there is a huge pile of dirt at the end of Embarcadero where the dump used to be. Lots of trucks moving dirt from one place to another.

If we are paying to have huge piles of dirt pushed around than a smaller piece of equipment can come in and deepen the existing channel under the bridge.

This week they were fixing up East Bayshore with a lot of equipment.
So everyone is working some earth moving project is the area in question.
However - there are many "for lease" buildings on East Bayshore - who owns those building?

Then go up and look at the creek by SLAC - Alpine Road - it is full of dead tree limbs which will compact as they move down stream in a storm. Someone said that is to "protect the fish" - right - what fish - you need clean, unobstructed passage to get upstream. The amount of dead tree limbs is contracting the size of the creek.

Think Truckee River - think how clean and unobstructed - that whole river is managed for top efficiency. And the fish love it there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 21, 2014 at 1:33 pm

San Mateo County / Menlo Park / East Palo Alto have a utility company with a Statement of Work relative to flood control - their funding is allocated based on that SOW. Santa Clara County / Palo Alto / SCVDW have SOW's that define what they are responsible for and the funding relative to those tasks. That is the starting point.

The creek in Menlo Park / Palo Alto / East PA should already have funding for basic maintenance. Basic Maintenance is removal of dead growth, overhanging new growth vegetation, silt build-up, and reinforcement of creek side walls where required, and repair of bridges. That money should already be there and is within the various agencies to implement based on their SOW's. They are government agencies with the authority to perform those efforts.

The additional effort everyone is looking for - in one form or another - is additional scope of work.

You need to make sure that the basic effort you are already funded for is being done. That is the government side of this issue.

The lobby groups are not authorized with government funding to implement any of these tasks. If they are pushing agendas which are confusing this issue then they should back-off and let the government agencies perform the tasks they have the funding and authority to perform. The golf course and soccer fields are not part of the basic SOW's for creek maintenance at this time.

You all need to figure out what you are legally responsible for now, have the funding for now - and do it.

If you do not do the functions you are required to do then you are on the legal hook if things go wrong.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brian Schmidt
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm

To respond to the questions above, the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (JPA) brings together the five local governments concerned with flood protection along the creek (and other issues like environment and trails). The JPA is the lead agency for the project downstream of Highway 101. For Highway 101, Caltrans is in charge. While the JPA is leading the overall project, it is a very small coordinating agency, so actual construction management of the downstream project will be done by the water district, which has lots of experience with these projects elsewhere in Santa Clara County.

Sediment removal and flood channel widening are parts of the downstream of 101 project.

In early fall, the JPA works with the five agencies to do a walk through of the creek corridor looking for obstructions that could clog up choke points in the rainy season, with the idea that the agencies will coordinate and determine who will be responsible for removing which potential obstruction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 21, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Thank you for the response.
Side note on 10 June Meeting at the SCVDW: Before our creek issue one other: There is a creek in Saratoga where the SCVDW is going to cut a 20 foot road on both sides. Many residents spoke on this as they have incorporated that property into their landscaping. All of the trees are going to be removed - very upsetting for the residents. Since this creek is not vulnerable to flooding they could not understand why this action was taking place. There was no explanation at that meeting.

Imagine the time, effort, and funding required for that action. Also imagine the equipment required to accomplish that.

Bottom line is that the organization can move out with a lot of equipment when it wants to.

I looked at our creek today - Middlefield to El Camino. This portion is dry. There were bushes growing on the bottom, bushes and trees growing on the sides, as well as unkempt trees and weeds at the street level.
Sorry - not a thing of beauty. If you consider flooding you can think of all of the bush and tree overgrowth that will compact at the bridges.

There should be a truck that comes through once a year to remove the bushes on the bottom, cut back the trees growing on the sides, and trim up the trees at street level and remove the weeds. If we are concerned with flooding then the minimum should be done to remove the vegetation that compacts at the bridges and groom the street level trees so they are presentable. I would think that a once a year clearance and maintenance of vegetation growth would be a base requirement for a flood prone creek.

I go to the San Diego area and the residential communities along 805 are in dry, hilly terrain but all is landscaped and maintained. That is also for fire control issues in the summer. They manage to keep the whole place looking very classy.


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Posted by traceychen
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 21, 2014 at 6:20 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Mr. Florida
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2014 at 5:06 am

Regarding the trees on the golf course, they have zero to do with any of the flood control issues or engineering, except the few that are literally in the path of the re-aligned San Francisquito Creek. The trees on the golf course that are being removed (and many are staying put) are being removed because they are dead, dying or invasive to the Baylands area. Some are being taken out because soil is being imported to raise parts of the golf course to help with drainage and to allow for more than 50 acres of turf to be restored to natural grasses and wetlands.

If you play the course (and I do) you will see that a majority of the trees are pathetic specimens that were planted 30 years ago in bad soils. Plus, the rocket scientists of the day choose eucalyptus, beefwood and other odd - non-Baylands - varieties that simply are not good for the area. If you do a bit of web searching you can find the varieties going back in: Wax Myrtle, Coffee Berry and types suitable for the coastal location.

The real story here is a state water board that is simply out of control. When I spend my time in California it is always amazing to hear the tales of government absurdity. This takes the cake…a flood control project that has been designed and engineered for years - and vetted through an elaborate public process - now being held hostage by one agency that, from all reports, seems to have an agenda of its own with no clear rationale.

When I talk with those at the golf course I am led to believe that there are one or a few individuals at the regional water board that are simply bent on giving the SFCJPA a hard time. How nice, to have a bureaucrat in a cushy SF office throwing wrenches at the folks down south who are working diligently to get flood control resolved - and to make the area better for all…residents, nature-goers and those who use the golf for recreation. Oh, and the habitat. It gets better, too. In fact, so does water quality because the work creates more wetlands, more naturalized areas and, overall, better drainage to the Bay!

I was encouraged by the comments by Wolfe, who appears to be in charge. Let's hope he is not one of the individuals who is stonewalling the approval!


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 22, 2014 at 10:17 am

Thank you for your comments on the trees at the golf course. I think this is a timing issue - they are projecting an El Nino winter. If you look at the water level now at high tide you can project saturated soil that will slide down into the Airport. There is also a hill of loose soil at the end of Embarcadero where the dump used to be - another potential for sliding downward.
They have some great soil up at Searsville Lake that would be perfect for building up the golf course. This silt will have no contaminates from boat oil. The problem of what to do with the silt at Searsville Lake can be solved to everyone's advantage. And think of the savings to the city. WOW. Everyone's wins here.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 22, 2014 at 12:22 pm

If you go to the home page for the Joint Powers Authority for San Francisquito Creek it features Searsville Lake. Yet it appears that Stanford is not represented as part of the group. If you go to the Regional Water Quality Control Board there is a representative from Stanford on the board. Try connecting the two if this is the sticking point. She can exert leverage over Stanford - or figure out what the sticking points are. My suggestion.


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Posted by Brian Schmidt
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 22, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Just to add a little more:

There is no road proposed along the top of the creek in Saratoga, discussed on June 10. Residents saying that were incorrect. They said it in the public comment period which does not allow for extensive discussion by board members or staff.

The statement that trees at the Palo Alto golf course are unrelated to flooding issues in the creek is correct, according to the hydrological analysis of potential flooding.

SFCJPA is a joint body of government agencies, so only those agencies can have board members on the JPA (I am one of them). Stanford is a private entity and cannot sit on the JPA board, but a Stanford representative usually comes to our meetings and often provides helpful comments. Two of our board members participate in a committee that Stanford has established to provide advice regarding Searsville Lake.


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Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 22, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Thank you - I saw that Newsta Ajami is on the Regional Water Quality Control Board and she represents Stanford so she would probably be the most knowledgeable about the plans for Searsville Lake.


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Posted by Save The Oaks
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 23, 2014 at 10:40 am

Newsha Ajami was appointed to the regional water board before she joined Stanford. Given her extensive background before joining Stanford, I doubt that she "represents Stanford" on the water board. See her background at Web Link or Web Link


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm

If she is paid by Stanford to participate then she represents Stanford. They do not pay someone to join boards unless they have some authority to make decisions. She has great credentials.


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Posted by Save The Oaks
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 23, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Point taken. I expect that Ajami earns much more at Stanford than the water board's $100 per diem. Web Link

Newsha Ajami, 38, of San Francisco, has been reappointed to the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, where she has served since 2013... This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.


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Posted by stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2014 at 10:16 pm

As a faculty member at Stanford who works in the water area, I can tell you that I am pretty sure that Ajami's work at Stanford with "Water in the West", a part of the Woods Institute has nothing to do with her presence on the water board. She is not paid by Stanford to be on the board. Equivalently, her presence on the board has nothing to do with Stanford. You can look up her credentials at Web Link.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 24, 2014 at 8:03 am

The Region 2 Water Quality Control Board has data on Searsville Lake dated 2003 and 2004. Some decisions must have been made at that time - those were not drought years.

The California history of that specific region precedes the presence of Stanford - a very busy location with Indians and timber / gold seekers. I know that San Francisco was built with timber from that area. So who owns the history of that area - SU is the current caretaker - how are they doing? The rest of us cannot see what that is.

Good article today in the SF Chronicle on coho salmon in Lagunitas Creek.
Why isn't that a goal for that whole watershed area in the Santa Cruz Mountains? Why isn't this creek from end to end - along with the whole watershed area being managed to maximum benefit for flood control and the fish population?

Maybe Stephen know the answer to that question.


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Posted by stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2014 at 8:10 pm

resident1: That's easy - Because a dam was built on it in 1892 that folks are now trying to figure out how to remove since it is (a) filled with sediment (Searsville dam is more of a retaining wall than anything else) (b) has an important wetland at the upstream end; and ( c ) any project would take place in the presence of at least 3 endangered species (steelhead, re-legged frogs and tiger salamanders, which I imagine would complicate any effort to deal with the sediment. I don't remember what the volume of sediment is, but I remember hearing that it would takes months of a continuous flow of trucks to remove the sediment that is there, something that would be less than ideal for the nature reserve (Jasper Ridge) in which Searsville sits. As is the case across the US, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to figure out how to deal with these sorts of outdated infrastructure. If you want to read about a success story in this field, look up what is happening with the Elwha River in Washington, where probably the most significant dam removal to date has been carried out. Check out Web Link.
That said, I personally would be very much in favor of tearing out the concrete in Adobe and Matadero Creeks to restore them to some natural function even if it meant returning parts of Baron Park to the 100 year flood zone.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 24, 2014 at 8:51 pm

We all now about the sediment in the lake - we can all read it in the year 2007 assessment of choices as to what to do about it. Letting it sit there and accumulate even more by ignoring it will make it worse. And there will be no room for the fish. The idea in the report is to gradually remove it in layers. You can truck it down to the golf course which needs more good soil to replace the salt contaminated soil.
The fish are never going to make it up there.
The Nature Conservancy is successfully working issues of this type - they have a local group.
See - that is the problem - we all know about very successful solutions and groups that do this but do not see anyone up there actually doing anything except maintain the status quo - more accumulation of silt.
And no one is going to get near Adobe Creek - that works and has fish.


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Posted by stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Ok…
(1) per Web Link - there are 1.5 million cubic yards of sediment behind the dam. The average semi can haul about 20 cubic yards (limited by weight). Thus, the sediment, wherever it is going to go, will need ca. 75,000 truckloads worth of hauling.
(2) There is a nice article about Adobe creek on Wikkipedia. Adobe has a few fish in some of the reaches, but no steelhead (at least not since 1987), and has a significant stretch in Palo Alto that is paved with concrete to increase in-channel capacity and so avoid flooding. This kind of modification (destruction?) of a major portion of Adobe creek is what the JPA and its members are trying to avoid.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 25, 2014 at 9:28 am

Forget about Adobe Creek - not your job - you all need to focus your attention on SF Creek. SU is still allowing the sediment to stack up at Searsville. The more you sit on this the more it builds up. You all recognized this problem in 2007 - that was 7 years ago. You could have been lifting off layers and reducing the silt level. If you start the job it will be over in no time. Lot of use for that silt. Work it in layers.


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Posted by Do the Math
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2014 at 9:32 am

With 100-year floods now occurring every 20 years or so, and the last flood having been in 1998, it appears we have 4 years or less to get this problem solved. Otherwise, another disaster like 1998!

Wise up, Water Board.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 28, 2014 at 6:36 pm

I believe that there was a JPA meeting on June 26 at 4:30 in the Menlo Park Council Chambers. Can someone please report on the end results of that Meeting?

Side issue - notice the number of articles now on removing weeds, dead tree parts, maintaining property with the prevention of fires? We are going into the hottest period of summer so the individuals should be calling the city inspectors to cite people who are not maintaining their property. Maybe cite the city who is not clearing and maintaining the creek end to end?
The dead vegetation - and over grown vegetation will dry out, break off, and compact at the bridges when moved down by water.

Side Note on Adobe Creek - people should check it out at the Louis Street bridge. There is moving water, plants, and ducks with their families. All things considered it looks really good. Functional with live birds and animals.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 28, 2014 at 9:16 pm

People have talked about the agenda of the Regional Water Quality Control Board in blocking the project, but what is their agenda? What politics are at work here? If they were appointed dictator, what would they be doing?


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