Residents near the San Francisquito Creek received their latest wake-up call from the fickle creek on Dec. 23, when a heavy rain storm caused the creek to spill onto Highway 101 in East Palo Alto and nearly overflow the Pope-Chaucer Bridge in Palo Alto.
Now, officials from Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park are trying to make sure that the next rain storm will be more predictable.
On Monday night the Palo Alto City Council authorized a request from the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (which includes the three cities and the water districts in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties) to apply for a grant that would pay for new gauges in the upper shed of the creek. If the grant is approved, the city would be able to significantly improve its flood-warning system, which currently includes the Creek Monitor web page. The page delivers real-time data on creek flows near bridges. It does not, however, measure the water level upstream.
The grant funds would be used to create what a report from the Public Works Department calls an "enhanced regional flood warning system" for the creek's watershed. The new equipment would be integrated with existing gauges into a "unified monitoring system" and would include "a robust communications system that will optimize the availability of the rainfall and stream flow data to emergency responders and the general public."
The new proposal is the latest in a series of steps that the creek authority is taking to improve flood control around the creek, which caused extensive property damage during a major storm in February 1998. Its most ambitious project to date centers on the particularly vulnerable area downstream, between the San Francisco Bay and U.S. Highway 101. It includes rebuilding levees, installing flood-walls and completely reconfiguring the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course.
If the grant is approved, the creek authority hopes to have the flood-warning system in place before the 2013-14 winter-storm season, according to the Public Works report.