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February 7, 2012 > District works to secure federal funding for flood protection

District works to secure federal funding for flood protection

Santos Guest Column
Santa Clara Valley Water District
February 2012

In 2000, Santa Clara County voters approved a special parcel tax to fund the 15-year Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan which provided funding for four major outcome areas.

To ensure accountability to voters, an Independent Monitoring Committee (IMC) was formed to oversee the plan's progress. The IMC has just released its tenth annual report, which shows that we are on track to complete three of the four planned outcomes, raising concerns about the lack of federal funding for the flood protection outcome area.

In terms of flood protection, all locally funded projects are proceeding on or ahead of schedule; the IMC applauded the district for meeting its commitments.

In 2011, the district completed the Calabazas Creek Flood Protection Project ahead of schedule, protecting 2,483 parcels from flooding. Meanwhile, construction on the Permanente Creek Flood Protection Project is expected to begin in September.

Since 2000, the program has removed 58,988 cubic yards of sediment to maintain the water-carrying capacity of stream channels and reduce the risk of flooding.

The program also funds pollution prevention activities such as trash removal and educational efforts to ensure clean, safe water in our creeks and bays. The district responds to reports of hazardous material spills in local creeks and each year organizes major creek cleanup events.

Healthy creek and bay ecosystems is another major outcome area which has exceeded its stated goals. With a goal of 100-acres, the district has, through community partnerships, created or restored more than 569 acres of tidal or creekside habitat.

Finally, the district is nearing successful achievement of the final outcome area, having opened up 65.5 miles of new streamside trails and is poised to accomplish the goal of 70 miles by 2016. Trail development is accomplished through partnership with cities and the local communities.

The one area of concern is with federally-funded flood protection projects. Despite substantial support from local officials and our congressional delegation, state and federal funds have declined significantly. As a result, the completions of the Upper Guadalupe River, Berryessa Creek and Upper Llagas Creek projects have all been delayed.

As a board, we take our commitments to tax-paying public seriously and have taken aggressive action to minimize the impact of the federal funding gap. To make up for the federal funding shortfalls, the district has temporarily transferred funds from unallocated reserves to keep the projects moving forward and we are coordinating with local governments to encourage their advocacy for federal funding.

It is important that we continue to actively pursue state and federal funds as these can contribute up to 75 percent of the cost of large construction projects. In fact, the district has successfully brought millions of dollars to our county for needed water infrastructure, not to mention supporting economic stimulus through construction jobs.

My fellow board members and I continue to pursue every opportunity to secure the federal support we expected in 2000, when the Clean, Safe Creeks program was approved. We still need your help to achieve those goals. Please contact your state and federal elected officials to urge their continued support of these needed flood protection projects.

To read the IMC report, please visitwww.valleywater.org.

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