Op-Ed: Water District’s Project Up for Bid Creates Flood Risks

Rancho San Antonio County Park in Cupertino will be ravaged by heavy construction equipment this summer. The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to flatten about 70 trees and dig a huge, useless flood basin, creating lots of noise and dust in our most heavily visited Open Space Preserve. Plans are scheduled to go out to bid Tuesday, May 10.

The project is a fraud.

The Water District is desperate to spend money it has collected from you, the taxpayer, over 15 years. A naïve public voted for a parcel tax in 2000, and then renewed it in 2014.

Look at your tax bill: “SCVWD Safe, Clean Water — $59.32.”

We are closing in on $1,000 paid by each home in the county, and here is what the district has been doing with that money.

The district produced a 2008 report entitled “Permanente Creek Flood Protection” to explain how the money was to be spent. The report is 147 pages long. The district figured no one would ever find it, read it and examine it critically. Someone did and told me about it.

The plan was to dig four flood basins. The first was to be the entire athletic field at Blach Intermediate School in Los Altos. The second was to excavate the Open Space field at Cuesta Park in Mountain View. Residents opposed both of those projects and offered sound reasons as to why they were unnecessary and otherwise undesirable. The projects were abandoned, and the district then decided it didn’t need them anyway. But huge amounts of money were spent developing and promoting those plans.

The fourth project is the biggie: our County Park. Page 36 of the report states, “There is a choke-point built into the channel … purposely to avoid induced flooding downstream in Stevens Creek.”

The whole idiotic scheme revolves around this statement.

A choke-point forces water out of a channel and sends it over school property toward El Camino Hospital, creating a flood threat to hundreds of parcels downstream. People in Mountain View and Los Altos pay hundreds of dollars each year in flood insurance because of this manufactured flood zone. Redirecting floodwater onto properties that do not naturally receive it is not only defies common sense but is also a blatant violation of riparian law.

Mountain View suffered severe flooding in the 1950s. To alleviate this, Upper Permanente Creek was diverted in 1959 through a concrete channel, which discharges into Stevens Creek. This system has functioned without fail, except for one incident due to a design defect that was subsequently corrected. The infamous choke-point is in that channel. The district claims there is a substantial channel deficiency on Stevens Creek, which would be aggravated by removing the choke-point. But the fix required on Stevens Creek would then be only 15 percent larger. The district prefers to stop that 15 percent flow by digging a flood basin at Rancho San Antonio.

This is an exercise in lunacy.

Our other governmental agencies are either complicit or compliant with this outrage. County Parks did not object, even though their mission is to protect parkland. The county Board of Supervisors granted permission to invade the park. FEMA happily collects flood insurance money. Neither Mountain View nor Los Altos public works departments have protested the flood threat to their residents, or their flood insurance payments, which are created by the choke-point. Governmental agencies do not challenge misconduct by other governmental agencies.

They all get along.

So, our government is not working at the local level either. It’s time for the electorate to care.

Jerry Clements is a registered civil engineer (No. 14030). The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. tune in tonite at 6pm for another circus, they will move ahead on what they say is 600k new boardroom with hd and blu ray, duh for faces and blueprints???? @valleywater.org 6pm very funny show watching waste of tax dollars.


    waste, neglect, fraud and abuse run rampant. take ( TA) http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2016/05/04/teresa-alvarado-joins-spur-after-awkward-water-district-exit/ WHO IS A WEEK SHORT OF FULL RETIREMENT THANKS TO TAXPAYERS, BUT SHE IS GETTING IT ANYWAY.

  2. Is the photo accompanying this story modified in any way? It looks like someone dumped a lot of Lysol toilet bowl cleaner into the water.

    • That seems to be a fountain spewing Disney water.
      We are not sure what that is, but the guy running the jungle cruise said ducks and mud hens can live in it, and you can peel it of when it dries. Honest!

  3. This group is the biggest money grabbers in CA and put more money in their own pockets. (Go online and check out their own voted on pensions) But no one seems to care and keep approving their ballet measures so shame on the voters for putting these idiots in office. You get what you vote for or don’t bother to vote.

  4. Permanente Creek, which originates in the hills above Cupertino and flows to the bay, has a long history of major flooding, as far back as 1862 and as recently as 1998. The Permanente Creek Flood Protection Project was initiated as part of the voter-approved Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Program of 2000. After years of community meetings, planning and design, a project to protect more than 2,200 properties from flooding in Los Altos and Mountain View is finally nearing the construction phase.

    The project employs a number of features to decrease flood risks. Where possible, the creek will be widened to increase its capacity to carry flood flows. Where development inhibits creek widening, flood walls will be constructed. And two detention basins, one at McKelvey Park and one at Rancho San Antonio County Park, will be available to capture overflowing flood water during rare but potentially devastating major storms.

    As this project has been developed, the community’s concerns and desires have been heard and incorporated into the project. At Rancho San Antonio, the building of a detention basin will be accompanied by several park improvements. The current seasonal wetland on the site will be expanded and improved with the new open space layout. Hundreds of trees will be planted in the open space and creeks areas. Parking areas will be expanded, the equestrian lot improved, and a new restroom will be built.

    Why is this project necessary? Here’s a little history. A manmade channel was built in 1959, with a flow capacity of 1400 cubic feet per second, to divert high flows from Permanente Creek to Stevens Creek. No more than that amount could be diverted without inducing more flood risks on Stevens Creek. This helped reduce flood risks, but only enough to protect against a flood that has a likelihood of occurring once every 10 to 50 years.

    Generally, flood protection projects are built to prevent floods that are likely to occur once every 100 years. Homes with mortgages are required to have flood insurance if they lack protection from the 100 year flood. Insurance rate are significantly lowered when there’s an extra level of protection, called “freeboard,” to compensate for unknown factors that could contribute to flood heights greater than expected.

    In his opinion piece, Los Altos resident Jerry Clements asserts that the capacity of the diversion channel is sufficient to protect properties from flooding. In actuality, the channel still has the same capacity it had when it was built, and when the channel flooded Blach School and Altameade Drive in 1983. The fix of the “design defect” he noted did not increase the capacity. Our hydrology was confirmed by an independent engineering firm hired by the city of Mountain View.

    Construction is set to begin in 2016 and be completed by the end of 2018. We thank all of those who have shared their ideas and concerns throughout the planning process. For the thousands of residents and businesses who remain at risk of flooding, we remain committed to complete this important project.

    For more information about this project, please visit http://valleywater.org/services/PermanenteCreek.aspx.

  5. Listen to the story, the district just lies to get more tax money and cheat the home owner the district has a big issue with this, get kremen and his millions to build it if he is so for it. just like hd in the boardroom, or there lies of what is broke and what is spent, they just lie and spend.

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