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May 18, 2012 > Looking ahead: water district's five-year plan

Looking ahead: water district's five-year plan

By Richard Santos

Visionaries of the twentieth century left us an amazingly effective water system. It's now our duty to maintain it for our ongoing needs and prepare it to serve the needs of future generations. To ensure we are able to meet the coming demands, each year, the Santa Clara Valley Water District prepares a five-year Capital Improvement Program to improve water infrastructure and provide flood protection in Santa Clara County. This month, the water district board of directors will be considering the $2.3 billion program.

The five-year program proposes funding for 72 capital projects to address various critical needs ranging from water supply, flood protection, and water resources stewardship, to improvements to buildings and grounds and information technology projects.

Fifty projects are slated for construction over the next five years, which means up to $550 million will be awarded in construction contracts, generating or sustaining between 5,500 and 11,000 jobs in the private sector.

A number of projects are focused on repairs and upgrades to the Rinconada Water Treatment Plant, the oldest of the water district's three treatment plants, was built in the 1960s and is showing its age. This plant provides 80 million gallons of high quality drinking water each day to residential and commercial users in the west valley. The program includes a total investment of $243 million for improvements at Rinconada.

Another major focus is the seismic retrofit project at Anderson Dam. Anderson is the largest reservoir in our county and is critical to our water supply. The reservoir has been under an operating restriction since a study found that the dam does not meet current seismic standards. The planning stage of the retrofit project has already begun and we anticipate construction beginning in 2016.

Fifty years of major flood protection efforts and projects has significantly reduced the intensity and frequency of flooding in Santa Clara County. By 2005 the district had provided flood protection to 93,253 of the 166,526 parcels in the flood plain and another 4,204 have been protected since then. The proposed program would continue this flood protection work with projects on the Guadalupe River, Lower Silver Creek, Berryessa Creek, Coyote Creek, Sunnyvale East/West Channels and Permanente Creek.

The program also calls for environmental enhancements and restoration projects. One major project addresses the significant mercury contamination in the Guadalupe Watershed. Another project preserves or restores 80 acres of habitat to mitigate for the environmental impacts of our dam maintenance activities.

In the coming fiscal year, there are two District 3 capital flood protection projects that will be going to construction. The Berryessa Creek Flood Protection Project (from Lower Penitencia Creek to Calaveras Boulevard) is projected to cost $18 million and could generate between 180 and 360 jobs. A flood protection project on Coyote Creek (from Montague Expressway to Interstate 280) is projected to cost $8 million and will likely generate between 80 and 160 jobs. Each of these projects will protect thousands of homes and businesses from flooding.

One benefit of annually preparing a five-year capital improvement program is that it allows staff to identify and prepare for future challenges such as replacing or repairing aging infrastructure or meeting future water supply demands.

Before bringing the list of proposed capital projects for the water district board's approval, district managers met with representatives from local city governments and the county to seek feedback on the proposed projects and hear any concerns.

Where does the funding for capital improvements come from? About 30 percent would come from state, federal and other sources that the district aggressively pursues to leverage our local investment. The remainder is funded from district revenue consisting of water charges, property taxes, special parcel tax, benefit assessment and interest earnings.

On May 15, the board will make a final decision on this Capital Improvement Program. We encourage residents to come to the board meeting to let us know what you think. For more information on this program and capital projects in your area, please visit

As always, I am available for questions or comments as your District 3 representative for the northern areas of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara; Alviso; Milpitas; and the north San Jose and Berryessa communities. Feel free to contact me at (408) 234-7707.

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