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by Piper, Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Aug 18, 2006
The bridge could be removed and replaced with one that does not impede flow for less than the cost of whining for federal funds to accomplish the same purpose.
Piper, the city has done nothing, even though residents of that area have been trying to get them to do something ever since the 1998 flood. They should have just gone ahead and removed the Chaucer street bridge and let the consequences fall where they may, but they are gutless bureaucrats.
The city does have a flood monitor on its web site though, so now you can watch the water rise from the comfort of your home instead of standing at the bridge with your neighbors out in the rain. Be warned, however, that near the top of the opening thru the bridge, it rises much faster than earlier, because the opening narrows.
I did that dismal Chaucer Street bridge vigil at several occasions from 1977 to 1997, when I lived at a low spot in Crescent Park. It was a lonely scene back then.
Removing that bridge won't solve the flooding problem, because the creek also overflows at the Middlefield bridge constriction, as it did in 1998. And since we put our creeks on ridges in this town, the water will run away from the creek to the same ponding areas, creating the same floods. Even "fixing" both bridges won't guarantee that a storm won't dump more water into the creekbed than it can carry.
We need a bigger creekbed or some way to limit the flow. The way to get a bigger creekbed is buying and digging up a bunch of the most expensive real estate in the world. Not likely. Controlling the flood means building a dam upstream of highway 280 to store the surge. That ought to be workable. Its basin would only rarely contain water, so it could be used for farming, undeveloped open space, or other discontinuable purpose between floods. And a properly designed dam needn't be an eyesore. But getting two counties and Stanford to agree, get finding, and move forward will take vision and effective leadership.
David Bubenik is absolutely right. The solution to creek flooding is an upstream dam.
However, it is not necessary to build a dam; it already exists! It is at Jasper Ridge. Many years ago Stanford decided to let the lake (Searsville) behind the dam silt up for "ecological reasons." Of course ecological reasons have not prevented Stanford from building all over the Foothills in areas at least as susceptible to ecological damage as Jasper Ridge.
Searsville lake is now a puddle, barely a foot deep. Silting of Searsville was certainly an exacerbating factor in the big flood of ten years ago. Palo Alto should put pressure on Stanford to dredge the lake to ameliorate downstream flooding in the short term while another site for an upstream dam is found.
That site will certainly be on Stanford property and Stanford can be depended on to oppose it with all the resources at its disposal. However, this is one situation where imminent domain makes sense.
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