U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to partner with Santa Clara Valley WD for Coyote Creek feasibility study

By on July 27, 2017

The headlines, photos, videos and social media posts of the destruction from the flooding of Coyote Creek in Santa Clara County from February of this year were profound. Some 14,000 people were evacuated from their San Jose area homes, more than $70 million in damages occurred ($50 million in private property damage and $23 million in public property damage) and more than 475 homes were yellow-tagged marking them as unlivable.

In order to preclude such flooding in the future, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be partnering with Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) to develop a feasibility study for reducing flood risks on Coyote Creek. The partnership is an important step toward securing funding from both the United States government and state of California for a flood protection project for Coyote Creek.

“This commitment from the Army Corps is a big win for those who live in areas prone to flooding on Coyote Creek,” said John L. Varela, SCVWD’s board chair. “We are grateful to Representatives (Zoe) Lofgren (D-19th District-San Jose) and (Ro) Khanna (D-17th District-Santa Clara) for advocating for this action. We are running on all cylinders to push for long-needed flood risk reduction measures for Coyote Creek.”

Lieutenant Colonel Travis J. Rayfield of the San Francisco District of the Army Corps, accepted the district’s request to enter into a partnership with the water district to develop a feasibility study for Coyote Creek in a July 14 letter to the water district. A formal agreement will now be drafted between the two entities and the district will pay the Army Corps for the provision of technical assistance in the development of a feasibility study. By paying for the Army Corps’ technical assistance, the feasibility study can commence as soon as an agreement is signed between the two agencies.

Section 1126 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 provides the water district with the ability and flexibility to advance an Army Corps feasibility process without federal funding or approvals. The Coyote Creek commitment by the Army Corps of Engineers marks the first such application of Section 1126 in the nation. A Civil Works Feasibility Study is the initial step in the process for the Army Corps of Engineers to address flood risk reduction. The study establishes the federal interest, engineering feasibility, economic justification and environmental acceptability of a water resource project recommended for Congressional authorization and construction.

“A feasibility study is an important step towards securing federal support for infrastructure improvements,” said Congresswoman Lofgren, who led a letter of support for the partnership this May. “We need to prevent the sort of flooding San Jose suffered earlier this year.”

“This feasibility study is a necessary action to better understand the flood risks facing the communities on and around Coyote Creek,” said Congressman Khanna. “It is my hope that the findings from it can prevent another disaster like the President’s Day flood.