Officials broke ground on Friday on a long-awaited $41.35 million San Francisquito Creek flood protection project.
After decades of planning, design and coordination, the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority and its partners said they hope to shore up areas and protect previously flooded areas of East Palo Alto and Palo Alto from water overtopping San Francisquito Creek from high creek flows, tides and sea level rise.
The plan is to protect from a 100-year flood, but it's also expected to strengthen the current levee, which failed to protect East Palo Alto from a storm in 2012.
Luella Parker, an East Palo Alto resident living close to the creek, remembers that fateful day.
"Someone came to our door and knocked and said 'Get out! It's flooding."
Parker hadn't even realized she lived in the flood zone. Luckily, she and her daughter were able to escape as water poured into their home and the streets.
"I sad 'we can't drive through here!' and she says 'we've got to get out."
Parker, who advocated for resident protection from the creek, said it's a relief to finally see the plan get underway.
"I'll feel safer that my home will be protected," she said. "I know if it floods, there's no chance of me drowning."
Improving the downstream segment of the creek, between San Francisco Bay and U.S. Highway 101, constitutes the necessary first step in an overall plan to provide more than 5,700 homes and businesses in East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and Menlo Park with 100-year creek flood protection, the authority said.
"It's a complicated project, politically, financially, and environmentally," explained Len Materman, who works for the Joint Powers Authority.
But cutting through the red tape is worth it, he says.
"...It could save lives. These homes are below sea level with the roofs below the levee."
The project has been nearly three years in the making, the authority said, and it will now begin with PG&E’s construction of a new footing for, and the relocation of, a large electrical tower, which will be followed by work to build new levees and floodwalls. PG&E will also be moving and improving its gas transmission pipeline, the authority said.
The project construction will last through 2018. For more information on the project, click here.