Neighbors of Blach Junior High School in Los Altos turned out in force last week, hoping to sink the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s proposal to install a flood-detention basin on the school’s athletic fields.
The water district-sponsored Permanente Creek Flood Project design workshop, held at Blach Nov. 16, drew opponents protesting the district’s plan. The design proposes building a 10-foot-deep underground basin across 7.5 acres to collect runoff in the event of a “100-year flood,” a large-magnitude flood with a 1 percent chance of occurring every year.
Water district officials consider the basin a preventive, protective measure, but workshop attendees disagreed.
“This seems like a drastic measure,” said 60-year Los Altos resident Leona Peery, 85. “I think it’s overkill. If they kept the creek clean, it wouldn’t be as severe.” “We don’t need it,” another man shouted, drawing applause from the audience.
In 2000, voters passed Measure B – the Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan – designed to improve water conditions and safeguard homes, schools and businesses for 15 years. The measure provides $32 million, available through 2015, for creek restoration and flood protection.
The project area includes nearly 11 miles of Permanente Creek, beginning in the foothills above Cupertino and continuing through Los Altos and Mountain View, designed to protect approximately 1,664 properties from a major flood, improve riparian habitat and provide opportunities for trails and other recreational uses.
The proposed designs have generated criticism from residents concerned with the disruptions that could result from the construction of the basin, as well as the installation of an 8-foot-wide, 4,000-foot-long pipe required to channel excess waterflow to the Cuesta Annex in Mountain View.
Many workshop participants complained of a lack of communication regarding the proposal.
A project of such magnitude is bound to have a huge impact on the community, according to water district engineer Afshin Rouhani, who answered questions from the audience.
“This type of project requires a lot more outreach than the typical,” because of the logistical measures that would be required, Rouhani said.
In exchange for constructing the flood basin, the water district has offered to install a new soccer field at Blach, made of artificial turf but at a depth of 10 feet.
“This is going to be a sunken pit, a bowl covered with turf. It will be hot,” said Los Altos resident Cathy Martina. “Sinking the field 10 feet is significant – I hope people realize that.” Blach faculty and Los Altos School District officials approve of the water district’s plan, according to Trustee Mark Goines.
“The staff is very excited about the improvement of quality and flood protection they will get,” Goines said. “Blach School incurred $250,000 worth of damage during a minor flood in 1984, and we are very concerned about that.”
After gathering input, water district officials are scheduled to present a revised schematic plan to the school district early next year. To proceed with a final design phase, the water district must secure a majority of votes from the five school district trustees.
For more information on the Permanente Creek Flood Protection Plan, visit www.valleywater.org.