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Water district approves EIR for flood plan

Photo Town Crier File Photo

Children play in dirt piles on the Cuesta Annex in Mountain View, above, targeted for a future flood basin.

Neighbors defended preservation of parks and schools at the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors meeting June 17, protesting four flood basins slated for Los Altos and Mountain View.

Despite pleas from residents in both cities, board members certified the Environmental Impact Report for a flood protection plan along Permanente Creek.

The controversial plan includes installation of water detention basins at Rancho San Antonio County Park and Blach Junior High School in Los Altos and Cuesta Park Annex and McKelvey Park in Mountain View, some as deep as 23 feet and 8.5 acres wide.

“There is no real need for a flood detention basin,” said Mountain View resident Christine Crosby.

The EIR states that the plan would create four off-stream basins as holding areas for water in the event of a catastrophic flood that could occur once every 100 years. The basins would be gently sloped and used as fields and park space until a flood occurs.

Crosby was just one resident hoping to convince board members not to certify the EIR for the project, designed to reduce the risk of flooding for 2,220 parcels in Mountain View and 250 in Los Altos along the 11-mile stretch of creek.

During construction, the field, park and school sites will be closed.

Los Altos Hills resident Robert Schick submitted a petition with more than 300 signatures opposing the plans and asking to save the natural habitat of Cuesta Park Annex.

Some residents complained that communication between the water district and the public has been poor.

“Your outreach efforts have failed,” Crosby said to the board.

Others specifically criticized the water district for poorly advertised meetings.

“Why do they want community input if they are going to ignore us?” Crosby asked following the board’s decision.

“I can’t think of a rational reason why you would destroy (Cuesta Park),” said Cyndy Riordan, an artist who grew up in Los Altos and still paints at Cuesta, to board members. “If I were you, I would not even be able to look at myself in the mirror.”

Board member Patrick Kwok said the hope is to partner with residents in future discussions about design details.

Three attendees were in favor of the project, including Mountain View City Manager Kevin Duggan and Councilman Tom Means.

Measure B, passed by voters in 2000 as part of the Clean Safe Creeks Plan, will fund the project, but former Los Altos resident Donald Letcher said he believes voters were duped.

“Had they known that the project would rip out (Cuesta Park), they would not have voted for it,” he said.

The plan also calls for floodwalls, channel improvements and a diversion structure to Stevens Creek.

According to the EIR, construction could last from six months to six years.

After the meeting, board member Rosemary Kamei said workshops could be used to reach out and inform the public about the project.

Although the EIR was certified, board member Tony Estremera acknowledged residents’ concerns.

“If in the end it doesn’t make any sense, then we won’t do the project,” he said.

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