San Francisquito Creek Sea Level Rise Case Study

Communities along the San Francisquito creek, along with many others in the Bay Area of California, are facing increased flood risk from sea level rise, while existing flood protection challenges are projected to be exacerbated. The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA), covering a 30,000 acre watershed, has sought to address these challenges by working to simultaneously improve flood protection, recreational opportunities and habitat benefits to multiple communities. The SFCJPA San Francisco Bay to Highway 101 flood protection project is designed to protect against a 100-year San Franciscquito creek flow event happening at the same time as a 100-year high tide event that is marked by a sea level rise of 26 inches. To address the diverse interests of the SFCJPA partners and project stakeholders, the fundamental goal is to change this waterway from one that divides multiple, neighboring communities into one that unites them around a more natural water runoff system that is less prone to flooding.

The study determined that flood protection will be achieved by the following SFCJPA proposed methods:
• Widening San Francisquito creek to allow for 100-year storm events
• Removing an abandoned structure to allow flood flows from the creek channel into the Palo Alto Baylands Preserve
• Restoring a natural mouth to a portion that was channelized over 50 years ago
• Constructing an outlet structure for Caltrans’ enlargement of the Highway 101/East Bay shore Road Bridge over San Francisquito creek

Additional benefits of the proposed measures include creation of several acres of new tidal wetland habitat. The next proposed steps for the project included forging a funding agreement with available resources to begin construction, and then taking the project to the voters to continue constructing the project upstream. When completed, this project will provide increased flood protection for 5,500 properties in East Palo Alto and Palo Alto communities along a flood-prone section of San Francisquito creek downstream of U.S. Highway 101.

Publication Date: 2011

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