Mountain View Voice

News - January 28, 2011

LASD rejects flood basin

School basin was crucial to major flood protection project

by Daniel DeBolt

In an unexpected move, on Monday night Los Altos School District board members rejected plans to construct a flood basin at Blach Middle School, halting a larger project that would protect 2,220 homes in Mountain View and Los Altos from floods.

The board surprised Santa Clara Valley Water District officials by voting 4-1 against the Blach School basin, despite previous support from a four-member majority. The board said that the 7-acre, 10-foot-deep basin would prevent future sale or development of the school's fields if it needs to expand in the future. The sole supporter, board member Tamara Logan, called that concern a "red herring" because the school district would probably never use the space for anything but athletic fields.

Water District engineer Afshin Rouhani said the entire $40 million project — which includes three other flood basins — may now be scaled back, modified or killed altogether. An affordable alternative is to build a dam upstream near Lehigh cement quarry, which could impact wildlife and endangered red-legged frogs in the area, Rouhani said. It would complement some of the remaining flood basins and block water flow only during heavy storms.

The move confirmed fears expressed previously by Mountain View City Council members, who hoped that their support of the project's flood basins in two Mountain View parks would encourage Los Altos to make the sacrifice as well.

"Mountain View should be part of the solution, but it should not be the main solution," said council member Laura Macias in 2007.

As an alternative, Los Altos School board members said they were interested in an underground reservoir at Blach, which would cost an estimated $38 million, making it unaffordable, according to the Water District. The board also asked about enlarging the controversial flood basin set for the Cuesta Annex in Mountain View, which the community clearly opposed during a lengthy master planning process for the Annex in 2008.

The school board rejected the basin despite the water district agreeing to install a new track and combination football/soccer field with artificial turf, restrooms and a storage shed.

Rouhani said there was a possibility that the school board members could change their minds, and that the water district would continue to work with them.

Mountain View City Council members have approved conceptual plans for flood basins at the Cuesta Annex and McKelvey Park that would each hold the same 60-acre-feet of water volume as Blach, while Santa Clara County has supported a flood basin at Rancho San Antonio that would hold 100 acre feet.

The project is funded by the Clean and Safe Creeks Act approved by voters in 2000 with the goal of protecting 1,600 properties from flood damage. It would save property owners from having to buy flood insurance and would protect homes in the event of a 100-year-flood of Permanente Creek, meaning a flood that has a one percent chance of happening every year.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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