This evening, the Santa Clara Valley Water District held a hearing in city council chambers to discuss the draft environmental impact report (EIR) prepared for the Permanente Creek Flood Protection Project. About 28 people attended - 11 spoke (one spoke three times:-).
Copies of the draft EIR are available at the library in print form and at the district web site for a PDF copy. The EIR contains flood maps and other very neat facts about the area's geology. Web Link
Comments are due by Nov. 16.
It is important that you, as a community member, make your feelings known to the district however you feel. This is particularly important if you support the project since people are more likely to speak up and speak more loudly when they support a project than when they support it. Case in point, 11 people spoke out against the project and nobody spoke in favor at tonight's hearing.
The MV Voice has reported on different parts of the project over the past few years as the water district began the planning process so it should be a known quantity in our community by now.
According to the EIR, the project is intended to provide 1% flood protection for residents, businesses, and infrastructure along the Permanente Creek corridor in Mountain View and Los Altos. It consists of the following elements:
1) 8.5 acre flood detention basin at Rancho San Antonio County Park.
2) 7.5 acre flood detention basin occupying the athletic fields of Blach school and an underground culvert connecting the basin to Permanente Creek.
3) 4.5 acre flood detention basin in the northern portion of Cuesta Park Annex and underground culverts connecting the basin to Permanente Creek.
4) A 5 acre flood detention basin occupying McKelvey Park.
5) a new diversion structure to improve the flow split at the Permanente Creek Diversion Channel (that leads to Stevens Creek).
6) Floodwalls along Permanente Creek from 101 to just north of Amphitheatre Parkway
7) Replacement of selected concrete portions of Permanente and Hale Creeks with wider and deeper concrete channels.
The district prepared the EIR and held the hearing to comply with its obligations under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The primary goal of CEQA is to make sure the district considers environmental damage that can be done by a project and to consider mitigation strategies. The law is more procedural than anything else. A presentation about CEQA was given before the board meeting.
Wikipedia also provides good background: Web Link
About half of the public participants mixed up the role of the water district with the roles of the city. For example, five people mentioned the history museum at Cuesta Park. The water district is not involved in that project as it is outside of its jurisdiction.
Some comments were on point for the draft EIR, relating to extra traffic noise, dust, and impact, asking that construction be limited to regular business hours, and to reconsider impacts on nesting birds in Cuesta Annex. One person questioned whether this was a 100 year flood plan or a 500 year flood plan. There were also complaints about too little notice for the hearing, draft EIR missing from the library, the plans for the Annex are too manicured, and the plans will ruin the meditative nature of the Annex. More frivolous complaints were also made about this being the worst thing that has happened in Mountain View in more than 60 years, this violates the spirit of a 2000 bond measure for flood control, the district is ignoring other options such as buying all affected parcels flood insurance, and the four Cuesta Annex neighbors have put their homes up for sales just this week because of this project. Hyperbole reigned.
It was also clear to me that some of the earlier planning meetings mentioned by public participants were part of the city's master plan process. The board appeared surprised at the opposition since they have been getting green lights and support from the city up until now.
The city council intially approved of the plan for Cuesta Annex and apparently McKelvey Park, too.
At the end of the meeting, board member Tony Estremera defended the project and confronted some accusations made about the board overstepping its jurisdiction, misleading the public, and usurping power from the city. He told the crowd that the issues raised during the hearing raise substantial issues about whether the community wants the project. Speaking for the board, he said the district does not want to spend time on the project if the community does not want it. He feels that sufficient time remains to engage the community further and the hearing was not the end of the process. He affirmed that the district has an obligation and responsibility to provide flood protection. The difference in opinion was about how to provide that protection.
The board encourages more comments.
Personally, I am neutral on the project. I do not see anything wrong with the EIR that would cause me concern about the plans. It is a balance between flood protection (creeks do flood) and preserving open space in the form of an old orchard that has not been used in 40 years at Cuesta Annex. Reading the EIR, I found that I am in the flood plain but I am a second floor renter (although my landlord might care). I also don't use any of the parks in question. I care about the birds and wildlife at the project sites but they'll find other nesting spots nearby and hopefully return after construction ends.