The public can learn more about proposed flood-control, restoration and recreation projects along San Francisquito Creek, which runs through Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, at a workshop on Wednesday.
The public will have an opportunity to comment and ask questions of officials from the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, a regional government agency that oversees the projects and is preparing a draft environmental impact report.
The workshop begins with an open house at 6 p.m. at Laurel School Upper Campus at 275 Elliott Drive in the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park. A progress report is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., followed by a hands-on table-top exercise and a group discussion.
To reserve a seat, send an email to the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) at email@example.com.
The creek borders San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, including Menlo Park, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto. The discussion will include a report on project objectives, flood-control alternatives and what officials have learned since having established the scope of the proposed work earlier in the year.
The draft environmental impact report is due out between December and February, JPA Executive Director Len Materman told the Almanac.
Under the law, the public must be given opportunities to comment on such projects. "Too often, the public feels that once a draft (impact report) comes out, the project is decided already and further comment is pro forma," Materman said. "We go well beyond what's required by the state."
Additional workshops are scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14, from 9 to 10:30 a.m., in the parking lot of University Circle/Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto, and for Wednesday, Oct. 25, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Palo Alto Art Center Auditorium on Newell Road in Palo Alto.
Public comment can be helpful, Materman said. The JPA came to the table with five alternatives in December 2016, but acquired 11 more from the public in the interim, he said. "A couple of them we're going to be taking a close look at," he said. "I have no ownership over what we should be doing here."
Creek water control
Flooding in 1998 damaged some 1,700 properties in communities along the creek. The alternatives proposed for controlling creek flood waters include the following:
• Storing creek storm water west of Interstate 280 and releasing it gradually.
• Widening the creek channel and replacing the Pope Street bridge between Menlo Park and Palo Alto. A new bridge would effectively widen the channel by the removal of structural elements of the old bridge that block water flow, Materman said.
The city of East Palo Alto is replacing the bridge at Newell Road, and a new bridge on U.S. Highway 101 will be complete before the year ends, he said. The creek channel will also be made wider at Highway 101 by the winter of 2018, he said.
This work is meant to control flooding originating in the creek. Flooding from rising sea levels is being addressed with the SAFER Bay project, meant to protect some 8,400 parcels in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties considered to be in a zone vulnerable to rising salt water flooding.
Salt water does make its way up the creek at high tide. The current improvements should handle tidal flows of up to 9 feet above current sea level, a predicted rise that Materman called "very aggressive and substantial."