Mountain View Voice

News - June 22, 2012

Council delays flood basin vote

by Daniel DeBolt

Taking the advice of City Attorney Jannie Quinn, the City Council delayed a vote on the Cuesta Annex flood basin that was set for Tuesday.

Quinn recommended that the council wait for the completion of the project's environmental impact report over the summer.

"The City Council shouldn't really be approving the project until the environmental review is completed," Quinn said in a last-minute announcement at the June 19 meeting.

The City Council has been asked to approve plans for a Cuesta Annex flood basin that's half the size of the one originally proposed.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is proposing a basin in the open lot next to Cuesta Park known as the Cuesta Annex to capture 30 to 35 acre-feet of flood waters from nearby Permanente Creek, while 65-acre feet was originally proposed. The basin takes up 4.5 acres at the front of the 12.5-acre Annex and is 8 to 12 feet feet deep, according to proposed plans released June 14. Previously the Water District had proposed a 20- to 25-foot deep basin.

The basin is part of a project sufficient to capture flood waters in the event of a 100-year flood, which has a one percent chance of happening every year.

According to the plans, the sides of the basin would be sloped at a 14 degree angle, with stairs sand trails providing access. At least 30 new native trees would be planted, while 18 would be removed, including one classified by the city as a large heritage tree. Native wildflowers, grasses and shrubs are proposed which will not be irrigated.

Neighbors and users of the Annex say they like the informal nature of the existing park, and some have opposed any changes, citing the potential loss of wildlife in the park, such as the great blue heron that resides there and hunts ground squirrels. Others have said the basin protects at least part of the Annex from future development. A controversial plan for a city history museum in the back of the Annex was recently killed by the Mountain View Historical Association, citing fundraising difficulties.

After an environmental review this summer, the Water District could approve the entire Permanente and Hale creek flood protection project by December. It includes flood basins at Mountain View's McKelvey Park and Rancho San Antonio park near Los Altos. Construction could begin in 2014.

Public works engineer Sean Rose reports that 3,000 properties would be protected from flooding by the project, and 490 would be removed from FEMA flood zones.

If approved, pipelines would be installed under Cuesta Drive and Miramonte Avenue to bring water to and from the Annex basin the event of flooding.

A basin at Blach school was removed from the project after Los Altos school officials voted against it, and Water District engineers found that flooding would not be as bad as previously thought. Engineers found that large portion of hillside near Lehigh cement quarry actually did not flow into the creek, which also allowed the size of the Annex basin to shrink.

The Water District has also proposed flood walls along Permanente Creek north of Highway 101 and south of Amphitheater Parkway, protecting Google headquarters from flooding, the risks of which may increase as the sea level rises. And cement channels would be removed from some sections of the creek, allowing it to be widened and deepened. The district would also replace two bridges where Mountain View Avenue crosses Permanente Creek.

Information about the proposal is available on the city's website, ci.mtnview.ca.us.

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