Steps toward bettercreek management

Publication Date: Wednesday Apr 8, 1998

Steps toward bettercreek management

Flood gives rise to new multi-agency initiative for addressing the needs of San Francisquito Creek

In those frightening days following the Feb. 3 flooding, when continued strong rains threatened a repeat disaster, Palo Alto and Menlo Park city officials were locked in a struggle over the appropriateness of emergency flood control measures undertaken by Menlo Park.

Menlo Park had installed concrete barricades along Woodland Avenue next to San Francisquito Creek, hoping they would act as a kind of levee and protect the flooding of Menlo Park homes in the area should the creek go over its banks again.

Palo Alto officials, viewing the action as a direct threat to property owners on the Palo Alto side of the creek, pressured Menlo Park over the next two days to remove the barriers by threatening both legal action and unflattering publicity.

In the end, agreements were reached, tempers calmed and normal relations resumed, but the episode demonstrated the importance of better communication and a more coordinated approach to the management of San Francisquito Creek.

We are therefore heartened by the cooperative efforts currently being undertaken by all of the local political agencies with an interest in the creek.

Spearheaded by Menlo Park City Manager Jan Dolan, a group consisting of representatives from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Woodside, Stanford, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the San Mateo County Flood Control District has met with an eye toward forming a joint powers authority for the creek.

A joint powers authority would be made up of representatives from all the affected government agencies and would oversee the ongoing maintenance of the creek and determine long-term flood control and, we hope, flood warning strategies.

The formation of the authority and funding would need to be approved by each of the affected cities and both counties. In the meantime the group plans meetings with federal and state agency representatives and creekside property owners, whose properties extend to the midpoint of the creek and who must therefore grant easements for any creek work to be undertaken.

The joint powers effort dovetails perfectly with the work of an ad hoc group called San Francisquito Creek Watershed Coordinated Resource Management and Planning (CRMP), which coincidentally released a report on long-term flood control options for the creek last week.

CRMP is a non-governmental effort operating under the auspices of the Peninsula Conservation Center that has brought together representatives of those cities and other agencies and groups with an interest in the creek during the last four years.

CRMP has produced a very helpful report, written prior to the February flood, detailing the history of flooding and flood control proposals for San Francisquito Creek.

Reflecting its environmental sponsorship, the report identifies but then rules out as infeasible for environmental reasons the concrete channelization of the creek between El Camino Real and Highway 101. Instead, it offers options that include widening the creek, building a diversion channel through Menlo Park and building upstream dams or diversions to hold water during a 100-year storm.

The CRMP group has tried to operate as a consensus-driven committee seeking to bring together all interested parties, and except for clearly aiming to focus attention away from concreting the creek, has not taken any position on the various alternatives.

The Midpeninsula community should be pleased that positive efforts are underway to examine better ways to manage San Francisquito Creek and evaluate flood control options. We hope the CRMP group embraces the efforts to form a joint powers authority so that a regional decision-making mechanism exists to address the future of the creek.

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