District cuts Cuesta Annex from flood project
A Permanente Creek flood protection project was approved Nov. 20 by the Santa Clara Valley Water District without the controversial Cuesta Annex flood detention basin, though board members didn't completely shut the door on the possibility that it might one day be built.
With board member Patrick Kwok opposed, the board voted 4-1 in favor of the project, which will divert a rare 100-year flood into basins at McKelvey Park in Mountain View and upstream at Rancho San Antonio County Park.
The vote also included an order for Water District staff to examine ways to provide flood protection for El Camino Hospital, which could be flooded along with over 300 other properties in the area without a flood basin at the Annex. Board members noted a letter from El Camino Hospital's chief administrative services officer, Ken King, which said, "The Cuesta Annex flood detention facility is vital to ability to provide hospital and health care services."
"I am prepared to request the El Camino Hospital District Board of Directors to consider funding up to 50 percent of the cost of the Cuesta Annex flood detention facility," King said.
"This is money I've never seen or heard of," said board member and Mountain View representative Brian Schmidt. "We really need to take a serious look at this."
The board received a dozen letters about the Annex flood basin, and all but one was in support of a flood basin at the Annex. Most came from residents of the neighborhood who would not receive flood protection without it.
"Leaving our neighborhood and community hospital out of the flood protection project is short-sighted and frankly, appalling," said Leona Lane resident Jim Foroudian. "Given the recent weather-related disasters across the country, this decision is questionable at best. And given the fact that we voted for increased parcel taxes specifically to prevent a flood, I feel we should be given what we voted for and are paying for."
Opponents of the Annex basin include Los Altos resident Robert Schick, who said the need for it was based on "inflated flood predictions" and that it would require the removal of too many old trees. The 12-acre former orchard now used as a park would lose 18 trees, including one large, heritage-size tree.
Kwok, who represents a small portion of Mountain Vew, questioned whether the staff of the Santa Clara Valley Water District caved in to political pressure to remove the Annex flood basin, noting that staff members originally said the project required four flood basins, including one Los Altos school board members rejected for Blach Middle School.
"The majority of people really supported the Cuesta Park Annex" flood basin, Kwok said, noting that majority of City Council members have supported the project. "All council members who supported the Cuesta Park annex project" were re-elected.
"The voters supported this project. All of a sudden we change our minds. Was it because of revised technical data or pure political interference on the project?" he asked.
The Water District's Beau Goldie defended the project by saying that it exceeds the goals of protecting over 1,600 properties in a 100-year flood north of El Camino Real. District engineers have also updated their models of how water runs off the nearby hillsides and found less of a need for the Annex basin.
But Goldie added, "If the district is going to provide as much protection as we can, the Cuesta component should be included as part of this project."
The latest proposal uses all of the project's $40 million budget from the voter-approved Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Act of 2000. The Annex basin would have cost an additional $6 million to dig and landscape the 8- to 12-foot deep, 4.5-acre basin and run pipelines to and from Permanente Creek.
The Mountain View City Council may take up the issue on Dec. 11 when a vote on the McKelvey Park flood basin is also scheduled.
Email Daniel DeBolt at firstname.lastname@example.org