Keegan: It can flood anytime it rains—be prepared
Valley Water crews cleaning and removing debris from a waterway in Santa Clara County on Jan. 5, 2023. Photo courtesy of Valley Water.

We’ve witnessed extreme weather over the last few years. This past winter, we emerged from a three-year drought that concluded with an impactful series of storms, filled reservoirs and one of history’s heftiest Sierra Nevada snowpacks on record.

Valley Water was prepared. We know the climate is changing, and extreme weather is the new normal. Flooding can happen anytime it rains, and floods follow drought. That’s why our crews work hard year-round to clear creek channels of debris and blockages that can cause localized flooding. They ensure 300 miles of creek are ready for storms, not only removing sediment but also repairing levees.

Providing flood protection to Santa Clara County is part of our mission. In the last few decades, we have invested $1 billion in flood protection projects and removed nearly 100,000 parcels from flood zones, reducing flood insurance premiums.

Our work aims to protect the community from flooding events, such as the one in February 2017 that damaged homes and businesses along Coyote Creek. We are making progress in planning, designing and constructing improvements along approximately nine miles of Coyote Creek between Montague Expressway and Tully Road in San Jose. This project protects the district I represent and is of great significance to me.

On the northern end of our county, in Milpitas, we completed the Lower Penitencia Creek Improvements Project in June. We built a new levee and floodwalls and raised the existing levee along a one-mile stretch of Lower Penitencia Creek from Coyote Creek to San Andreas Drive, protecting thousands of properties.

To the south, we finished building a 2,300-foot-long tunnel underneath downtown Morgan Hill. This massive tunnel will divert stormwater into an underground bypass, protecting properties along East and West Little Llagas and Llagas Creek in Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Martin.

Preparing for sea-level rise is another one of our priorities. We continue progressing on the South San Francisco Bay Shoreline Project. This year, crews completed the first milestone of constructing 4,400 feet of levee to a height of 12 feet. The project will help reduce coastal flood risk for about 5,500 Alviso and North San Jose properties.

Engaging in emergency preparedness should be a priority for all of us—take a minute to ask yourself if you are flood ready.

It’s essential to know if you live in a flood zone, whether you own or rent your home. Visit, enter your address and you will see your location on the flood map. Please have your whole family download Santa Clara County’s emergency app, ALERTSCC, to receive notifications straight to your phone in case of an imminent flood. Also check out our free sandbag locations in case you need to protect your property from rising waters.

We’re hoping for a safe winter, but it is crucial to be aware, prepared and ready to take action.

Barbara Keegan is vice chair of the Valley Water board of directors and represents District 2.

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