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15-year Clean, Safe Creeks Plan report released

Lack of expected federal funding causing delay

Contact: Marty Grimes
Office: (408) 265-2607, ext. 2881
Mobile: (408) 202-4398
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Date: Jan. 24, 2012

San José—Today, the tenth Annual Oversight Report on the status of the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan (Clean, Safe Creeks) was released. The report highlights the district’s major accomplishments, including outcome targets that are expected to be exceeded; as well as areas of concern, including flood protection projects that lack the federal funding needed to be completed on time.

A November 2000 ballot measure, which passed with more than the required two-thirds majority, created the Clean, Safe Creeks 15-year “pay as you go” countywide special parcel tax to fund Santa Clara Valley Water District initiatives to protect homes and businesses from floods, open recreational trails, and safeguard creeks and ecosystems.

As part of the plan, voters approved the formation of an Independent Monitoring Committee (IMC) to oversee the plan’s progress and ensure the outcomes are met in a cost efficient manner. This year’s annual oversight report document details the committee’s conclusions and recommendations resulting from its independent, annual review of the program’s implementation by the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

The four major outcomes of Clean, Safe Creeks are:

1. Homes, schools, businesses and transportation networks are protected from flooding
2. There is clean, safe water in our creeks and bays
3. Healthy creek and bay ecosystems are protected, enhanced or restored
4. There are additional open spaces, trails and parks along creeks and in the watersheds

The IMC acknowledged district progress, noting that all locally funded flood protection projects are expected to be completed and for the first time since its formation, expressed serious concerns that projects relying on federal funds will not be achieved by 2016.

Three of the nine flood protection projects—Upper Guadalupe River, Upper Berryessa Creek, and Upper Llagas Creek— depend upon state and federal funds to fully implement. Due to the prolonged economic downturn and government cutbacks, much of those anticipated funds have not materialized, significantly delaying those projects.

In addition, the IMC noted that other outcome objectives were sufficiently met or are adequately on target to meet both budgetary limitations and schedule deadlines.

Addressing the district board, IMC Chair David Ginsborg said, “The district staff are to be commended for their efforts and their overall professionalism. They are implementing the program, to the extent possible and within the difficult financial constraints.”

Regarding the shortage of federal funds, Ginsborg urged the district to “adapt to this new norm and adjust accordingly. Treat it like a drought.”

To address the potential budget shortfall, the water district continues to work with its federal and state representatives to secure funding and evaluate other options to keep the projects on track and maximize the number of parcels to be protected from major flood events throughout the valley. At the district board meeting scheduled for Jan. 31, the board will discuss strategies to address these funding gaps.

In response to the report, water district board chair Linda J. LeZotte said, “While the lack of federal funding has been a setback, we don’t want to give up on federal funding for these and future projects. Partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on these massive projects is often the only feasible way to get them done.”

More detail on these projects can be found in the IMC’s annual report here and IMC Chair David Ginsborg can be contacted via e-mail at imc@valleywater.org.