Earlier this year, the Santa Clara Valley Water District broke ground on a project more than 50 years in the pre-planning stages that is designed to finally protect downtown Morgan Hill and neighboring stretches of South Valley from floods during heavy storms.
In recent months, construction crews have been busy managing wildlife and digging up dirt as they proceed on Phase 1 of the Upper Llagas Creek Flood Protection Project.
Phase 1 of the project will expand the capacity of a 4.7-mile section Upper Llagas Creek from south Morgan Hill to north Gilroy. The water district, now known as Valley Water, awarded a $68.1 million contract to Graniterock Construction in July to complete Phase 1 over the coming months.
In August, Valley Water officials and local elected representatives celebrated the beginning of construction with a groundbreaking ceremony.
The total cost for the flood control project, which will be completed in two phases, is about $180 million. It is funded by Valley Water’s voter-approved Safe Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program, the district’s Watershed and Stream Stewardship and the state Department of Water Resources Subvention funding, according to Valley Water spokesman Matt Keller.
The project required approval by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Lately, the Phase 1 work has been focused on the southernmost end of the project where Llagas Creek flows south of Church Avenue toward Buena Vista Avenue in Gilroy. Work has also begun on a stretch of the creek just south of Morgan Hill that includes a small lake known as Lake Silveira, according to Valley Water staff.
While the chief goal of the flood control project is to provide Morgan Hill and San Martin with 100-year flood protection, it also aims to preserve wildlife and restore habitat for plant and animal species. The restoration of Lake Silveira—a quiet undeveloped pocket of wildlife west of Monterey Road—is a part of that effort.
As of Dec. 20, Keller said, crews from Graniterock began the following work on the southernmost reaches of the Upper Llagas Creek Flood Protection project and Lake Silveira: removal of existing trees to avoid bird-nesting issues; removal of existing concrete rubble, trash and debris; installation of temporary fencing for site safety and security; destruction of several existing monitoring wells; and excavation of 500 linear feet of the original Llagas Creek around Lake Silveira to re-establish and restore about 2,000 linear feet of the original creek alignment.
Construction has been on hold in recent weeks due to rain, and will proceed when a stretch of clear, dry weather is in the forecast, Keller added.
Phase 1 construction of the 13.9-mile creek project is expected to be completed by late May. Phase 2 construction, which will complete the project northward past East Main Avenue in north Morgan Hill, is expected to begin in mid-2020, Keller said.
The project is designed to protect hundreds of properties susceptible to flooding during storms. The planning and design effort required the acquisition of approximately 150 parcels and resource agency permit negotiations, as well as consultations with the local community.
When completed, the project will finally provide Morgan Hill’s elected officials and dozens of commercial property owners—including those in the city’s downtown—with some assurance that the community will not experience damaging floods similar to those seen many times in recent years during heavy downpours.