Retention basins for the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Permanente Creek Flood Protection Project received the go-ahead from local agencies and, barring unforeseen circumstances, appear destined for construction beginning next summer.
But that’s not stopping a small, relentless and determined group of residents from continuing to question the district’s efforts to build the basins.
Basins at Mountain View’s McKelvey Park and Rancho San Antonio County Park are the two sites remaining from a plan that initially called for four. The district scuttled plans for basins at Cuesta Park Annex and Blach Intermediate School. The water district dropped Blach after the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees rejected the plan.
Water officials recalculated and determined that the Cuesta and Blach basins were not needed to protect more than 2,700 Los Altos and Mountain View properties in the event of a 100-year flood – a flood that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year. But they contend that the basins at McKelvey and Rancho San Antonio are still necessary.
The proposed basins need only environmental, utility and street permit approvals for construction to begin, said Afshin Rouhani, head of the district’s Permanente Creek project.
Objections to the plan
Opponents again voiced their opinions about the Rancho San Antonio basin at a July 18 informational water district meeting.
Engineers Richard Moll and Michael Hayden of Los Altos, among others, are convinced that a retention basin at Rancho San Antonio wouldn’t receive a meaningful amount of water, even during a 100-year flood.
“It therefore will barely reduce any associated amount of flooding,” Moll wrote to the district. “More importantly, it probably will not take any homes out of the flood zone, which is why the basin was proposed.”
Moll said that based on his research, which includes U.S. Geological Survey data, “the basin is oversized, unwarranted, will probably never take any homes out of the flood plain, will cause environmental damage and is an unjustified waste of money.”
Rouhani countered that the Geological Survey data are irrelevant and that the district uses its own updated hydrology model.
District 5 County Supervisor Joe Simitian expressed concerns over the water district’s data, because the district originally proposed four basins.
Los Altos resident Nancy Ellickson questioned the basins’ environmental impact.
“They’re going to impact a wonderful preserve and a quaint, little park,” said Ellickson, who added that her past experiences with the water district have left her skeptical about its intentions.
She said the McKelvey Park basin would “destroy the neighborhood” and would take away parking spaces, making an already crowded lot worse.
The water district appeased youth baseball leagues at Mc- Kelvey by promising renovated fields, bleachers, a concession stand and other improvements.
The proposed basin at Rancho San Antonio, 15 feet deep and 200,000 cubic yards, would remove approximately 100 trees, force a trail realignment and eliminate parking spaces.
The Permanente project will cost more than $40 million when finished, with money coming from Measure B, approved in 2000. Voters passed an extension of Measure B funding in the November 2012 election.
Despite the resistance, many residents are in favor of the water district’s plans and believe that the added flood protection could save them thousands of dollars in Federal Emergency Management Agency flood insurance.
But the opposition simply doesn’t trust the district and vowed to continue the fight – even if the odds are against them.
“Until the bulldozers pull up, it’s open game,” Ellickson said.