Mountain View Voice

News - November 16, 2012

Cuesta Annex: no flood basin proposed

by Daniel DeBolt

A controversial flood detention basin at Cuesta Annex is no longer being proposed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District and may be on its way off the table entirely.

Afhsin Rouhani, project manager for the Water District, said the Annex is no longer part of the preferred project in the project's environmental impact report — which the Santa Clara Valley Water District is set to approve Tuesday. He said the move was made in response to years of public outcry and to address cost overruns of as much as $6 million.

"The majority of the comments on the EIR mentioned opposition to the Cuesta annex basin," Rouhani said. "Over a period of years it seems like that's the majority sentiment — they would rather that it not be done."

The basin would have required the removal of 18 trees, including one large enough to classify as a heritage tree by city standards.

The Water District Board will vote on the proposal on Nov. 20 as part of a "final subsequent environmental impact report" for the project, which now includes basins only at McKelvey Park in Mountain View and Rancho San Antonio in unincorporated Los Altos. Rouhani said there is a chance that the Annex could be added back to the project by the Water District Board in order to protect an additional 300 to 400 properties, including El Camino Hospital, from flooding in a 100-year flood.

Explaining why the Annex basin was removed from the proposal, Rouhani said,"The main reasons were just the feedback received though the draft EIR process and the fact that we are meeting the original project objectives. "

While the City Council voted in support of the concept in January, a vocal group of residents have strongly opposed any changes to the 12-acre remnant orchard where people retreat to enjoy a rare view of the mountains, walk among old orchard trees and sometimes spot some unusual wildlife, including a great blue heron known to hunt there.

"I feel its a beautiful resource to have," said resident Mike Hayden, a computer engineer who says he found discrepancies in the Water District's flood modeling. "I like to walk there myself and a lot of other people do. I'm pleased they decided not to do it and I think it was unnecessary from the study I've done of the hydrology."

The proposed project aims to fulfill voter approval in 2000 of the Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Act.

The proposal includes a $10 million revamp of McKelvey Park, most of which will be lowered to crate a flood basin. Local Little League teams were promised new ball field facilities, including new bleachers, a new snack shack, artificial turf and improved lighting, among other amenities. The park would also have a new mini park and playground for the neighborhood.

The latest proposal uses all of the project's $40 million budget, Rouhani said. The Annex basin would have cost an additional $6 million, he said, to dig and landscape the 8- to 12-foot deep, 4.5-acre basin and run pipelines to and from Permanente Creek.

Even without the Annex, Rouhani said the project would meet its original goals of protecting 1,664 properties north of El Camino Real, including four schools, during a major "100-year flood," the name for a major flood that has a one percent chance of happening every year. The latest proposal goes further by protecting another 1,000 properties south of El Camino Real in Mountain View and Los Altos, Rouhani said, although there may still be some flooding in a 100-year storm.

"That area would still get some flood benefit, just not the full 100 year flood protection," Rouhani said. "The flood depths are quite a bit less but not the full protection."

Rouhani said an additional 50 properties would remain in FEMA flood zones without the Cuesta Annex flood basin and would have to buy flood insurance.

The Mountain View City Council is set to vote on the McKelvey Park basin on Dec. 11, along with the Annex basin if the SCVWD board approves it Tuesday.

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