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State awards $25 million to provide flood protection to San José

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Contact:  Marty Grimes                                                                                                                        
Office:    (408) 265-2607, ext. 2881
Mobile:  (408) 202-4398

Date:     December 28, 2011

San José, CA – On Wednesday, Dec. 21, the California Department of Water Resources announced the release of final awards for the Proposition 1E Round 1 Stormwater Flood Management Grant Program. Among the awards is $25 million for the Santa Clara Valley Water District to complete flood protection work on Lower Silver Creek in San José.

Earlier flood protection work on Lower Silver Creek, from its confluence at Coyote Creek to I-680, was completed in 2006. Construction on the next sections—From I-680 to Lake Cunningham—was put on hold in 2007 due to a lack of funds. The project was able to resume, after it was awarded $18 million in federal stimulus funds in 2009 and an additional $2.2 million in 2010, through the district’s project partner, the National Resources Conservation Service.

With the 2011 award of $25 million in state funds, the project can now be completed, protecting 3,800 properties within the FEMA 100-year flood zone in San José’s East Side. The entire project, from I-680 to Lake Cunningham, costs $55 million. The construction is expected to support 550 to 1100 jobs and is scheduled to be completed by 2014.

This project is part of the water district’s Coyote Watershed Program—a $400 million program of flood protection improvements within the Coyote Watershed, with the goal of improving natural stream functions and environmental benefits of creeks. Many of the creeks within the watershed, like Lower Silver Creek, run through densely populated suburban communities.

In addition to flood protection and bank stabilization, the Lower Silver Creek project includes enhanced habitat and vegetation, including the creation of nine acres of freshwater wetlands, enhanced fish passage, improved water quality, and new recreational amenities for low-income and minority neighborhoods in eastern portions of San José, including pedestrian bridges and multiple-use trails.

The project will reduce annual expenses for the water district, including ongoing maintenance requirements such as sediment removal and erosion repair work caused by bank failures.

“Over the past 50 years, Lower Silver Creek has experienced severe flooding that resulted in damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties,” said Tony Estremera, who represents the project area on the water district board. “This funding will finally allow us to complete the work we started in 2006, providing flood protection to almost 4,000 residents.”

Upon completion of improvements for all these remaining reaches and Lake Cunningham, the water district and the city of San José will be able to demonstrate to FEMA that the homes and businesses subject to 100-year flooding from Lower Silver Creek have been protected. This documentation triggers actions by FEMA to remove the mandatory flood insurance requirement.

The water district’s proposal was the third highest ranked project among the 41 applicants across the state. The project was highlighted in Vice President Joe Biden’s 2010 report, 100 Recovery Act Projects that are Changing America.

Proposition 1E, the Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act of 2006, was passed by California voters in 2006. As much as $212 million was available for this first round of funding under the Stormwater Flood Management Grant Program. Projects were required to be consistent with an adopted Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.

Photos of the construction on Lower Silver Creek are posted at