As weather forecasters warn of El Nino that will bring intense rain storms this winter, the cities of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, the San Mateo County Flood Control District and the Santa Clara Valley Water District are working with the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA) to reduce the risk of flooding.
"The first priority remains the safety of communities and protection of homes, and efforts are focused on both," a City of Palo Alto press release states.
Officials completed the annual San Francisquito Creek maintenance walk on Aug. 19-20, and potential public safety problems, including overgrowth, large debris and broken or dead trees (which can be carried by high water flows and become lodged under bridges or inside culverts) were tagged for modification or removal.
About five times the number of items from last year were tagged, including dead or fallen trees and invasive species, according to officials.
The City of Palo Alto is in the process of clearing debris in the channel upstream of Pope-Chaucer Street Bridge. The city will also remove vegetation in the creek farther downstream between Marlowe Street and U.S. Highway 101. Work will take place during the first two weeks of October.
"Native species including willows must be left in the creek due to regulatory constraints from the state, but the experts indicate these plants will not impact creek flow during a high-volume event," according to the press release.
The city has also filled a degraded spot in the berm around the Pope-Chaucer Street Bridge. The City of Menlo Park is also performing the same repair work on the other side of the bridge.
Other storm preparations include enhanced sandbagging of potential flood zones, as well as all-agency exercises between the SFCJPA and other emergency response organizations to integrate their operations and communications.
SFCJPA and Palo Alto officials have developed a new website that will provide residents and emergency responders more than twice the advance warning of potential flooding as compared to the city's current website, which monitors San Francisquito, Matadero and Adobe creeks.
The new website will feature a color-coded map showing the likelihood of flooding at key points along the channel and in specific neighborhoods. The site will also allow for two-way communication with the SFCJPA.
As part of educational outreach, officials will distribute emergency response contact information to the public, as well as information on how to check creek levels and details about the San Francisquito Creek flood-protection project.
A study session on winter storm preparedness is scheduled with the City Council at its regular meeting on Oct. 19. For more information, visit cityofpaloalto.org/storms.