The whole ball field is a dugout

Valley Water's $30M McKelvey Park flood control project nearly complete

McKelvey Park's baseball diamonds are back, and they're looking a little depressed.

After more than two years of construction, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is nearing completion of a $30 million effort to turn the park into a detention basin for flood water, which would help protect thousands of homes from flooding during a significant storm.

While the baseball facilities are brand new and expected to be open to the public by late July, the games will be taking place about 15 feet below ground-level. That's because 5 acres of McKelvey now serve a dual role as a neighborhood park and a flood detention basin -- a deep recession designed to take on water if Permanente Creek overflows.

Valley Water calls the project an important safeguard in the event of a 100-year flood, which has a 1% chance of happening in any given year and could affect large swaths of the city, including the Shoreline West and Cuesta Park neighborhoods. Instead, McKelvey Park would fill with water and drain out in a few days, followed by two to four weeks of "post-flood cleanup," according to the water agency.

An even larger, 15-acre flood detention basin is under construction upstream at Rancho San Antonio and is expected to be finished in early 2020. The two basins, along with other channel improvements, will provide "natural flood protection" for at least 2,200 properties in Mountain View and Los Altos, according to the water district.

Planning for flood basins along Permanente Creek began at least 13 years ago, when it was publicly revealed that the water district was weighing a 16-foot-deep flood basin at Cuesta Park Annex. A more developed version of the plan contemplated a total of four detention basins -- located at Rancho San Antonio, McKelvey Park, Cuesta Park Annex and Blach Intermediate School. The latter two faced serious opposition and were dropped from the project after water district staff took another look at the data and found the two basins weren't necessary.

The total project costs are estimated to be just shy of $70 million, the largest cost being McKelvey Park. The lengthy process of designing the project, redesigning the project, acquiring right of way and clearing the environmental review process cost $16.7 million prior to construction crews breaking ground in 2017.

McKelvey Park's busy construction gummed up traffic along Park Drive and Miramonte and Mountain View avenues, reducing travel along Park Drive to one lane for five months. All three roads had intermittent lane reductions as construction crews relocated utilities. The payoff this summer will be a new 0.7-acre mini-park and parking lot along with the baseball fields.

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Posted by Probably74
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 30, 2019 at 4:33 pm

Driving by most days I've watched the new park develop. It sure is a long way down those stairs.
I'm just curious: Will there be elevators down to the playing fields so everyone can participate? Will someone be on call to fix the elevators when they stop working?

Like this comment
Posted by No elevators
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 30, 2019 at 10:19 pm

There's an ADA ramp.

8 people like this
Posted by Brenda
a resident of Whisman Station
on May 30, 2019 at 10:39 pm

“McKelvey Park's baseball diamonds are back, and they're looking a little depressed.“ Depression is no laughing matter. The person who wrote this article needs sensitivity training on mental illness. Thanks for contributing to the stigma Mountain View Voice!

1 person likes this
Posted by Looks Awesome
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 31, 2019 at 6:46 am

I want to go watch a little league game there when it opens and I don't even have a kid that plays!
It looks a lot better that I had initially feared!

4 people like this
Posted by Waldo
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 31, 2019 at 7:47 am

Waldo is a registered user.

$70M for these two water basins! Hmmm...I wonder who pays for this? It's a bit suspicious that, after pushback on four basins, "...water district staff took another look at the data and found the two basins weren't necessary." I remember a Permanente Creek flood about 55 years ago, which put the intersection of Cuesta and Miramonte under about a foot of water. After that, a diversion canal was constructed, between Permanente Creek and Stevens Creek...and no more flooding. Also, at the time, there were still clear cut forest areas in the upstream watershed, created by the Santa Cruz Lumber Company. These areas have recovered, and that watershed can now absorb more rain water. Why did we need to spend the $70M? Really, why?

6 people like this
Posted by I am depressed, too...
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 31, 2019 at 7:59 am

I was expecting the park to be rebuilt at ground level OVER an enclosed basin, not in it. Would have saved a lot on stairs, ADA ramps and return an attractive ground level park to the community.

I am sure they checked that the water table is lower than the playing fields, but I wonder how warm it will get for the kids playing ball in a cement box on a hot day. Might make a great music concert venue.

2 people like this
Posted by Here's why
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 31, 2019 at 9:10 am

Rising sea levels, more king tides will add greatly to an upstream flood potential. We've seen smaller versions already over the past 20 yrs along our various creeks. EPA usually gets hit hard from San Fransiquito despite the increase in water absorption upstream.

We're now into new territory where we must consider the push from the ocean at high tides and how it affects the draining of the creeks. When it happens its like two flooding creeks running right into each other. That's why.

Like this comment
Posted by Waldo
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 31, 2019 at 10:10 am

Waldo is a registered user.

@ Here's Why:

The elevation for McKelvey Park is 108 feet. Here's a reference: Web Link. The elevation for the other proposed flood basin will likely be at several hundred feet elevation. All this for $70M. Would the potential flood victims have been better served by investing in creekside a far lower cost? As the bay water levels rise, levees are generally inevitable at various areas around the bay anyway.

10 people like this
Posted by Here's Why
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on May 31, 2019 at 10:34 am

Mmm-hmm, it's all about controlling how much water floods down to the bay at different stages of the creeks, also as there is so much more development since decades ago, more water runs off and into the creek/bay from the valley than ever before. Quote me your cost of a levee system, the areas you plan to including + the forever upkeep costs and we might compare, but I bet 70M would only cover the studies and maybe a small percentage of the legal fights with property owners, but really, speculative what-if's and maybes don't do convince many.

2 people like this
Posted by Depression is no laughing matter
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 31, 2019 at 8:39 pm

In American society nothing is laughing matter lately. No wonder there is so many depressed people.

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