How would you react if someone suddenly took away a big chunk of your backyard?
That's what hundreds of South Bay homeowners who live along creeks and rivers are facing. The Santa Clara Valley Water District is poised to reclaim land along the waterways and tear down everything homeowners have built on that property. It has been a jarring ordeal for waterway homeowners who are fighting to hold on to land they've used, taken care of and built on for decades.
Phil Livengood has lived along Saratoga Creek for 50 years. But now that the Santa Clara Valley Water District is reclaiming 270 miles of creekside property, Livengod's backyard will be 13 feet shorter.
The water district has always owned land along waterways for flood control purposes. Property owners were allowed to use the land through a deal first made in 1955. Livengood said it all suddenly changed.
The change will impact as many as 900 homeowners who may have fences and structures built on that property, or who have gotten used to the extra room.
Susan Windus will lose 100 feet of her backyard.
"We're just overwhelmed," Windus said. "We just can't believe it...that we're being treated this way."
The water district is sympathetic, but said the encroachment has gone on a long time.
"The reason that we're addressing this problem now is because we have some health and safety issues to deal with," said Melanie Richardson, Water District Watersheds COO. "We have some projects that need to be built...and it's impossible for us to do that without addressing the recovery of some of these properties."
The water district has already started removing diseased eucalyptus trees and said regulatory agencies require programs that must be monitored, which means the homeowners can't get the land back. The water district board is set to vote on the plan Tuesday night.