Last week, faced with the imminent prospect of two homes falling into the raging Arroyo de la Laguna south of the Castlewood bridge, the board voted unanimously to sponsor the emergency repairs. The Zone 7 staff had been working on the problem faced by two families for a few weeks before bringing the situation to the board. Zone 7 provides wholesale water and flood control services to the Livermore Valley.
Because both the governor and the president had declared California a disaster area, there is the possibility of federal aid.
So, despite the normally arduous prospect of getting permits from the resource agencies and the Army Corps. of Engineers, work started Friday, two days after the board’s approval. With the emergency declaration that identifies a threat to life and property, it can take months to get a permit and work can only be done in dry months.
This is an issue I have dealt with for literally 20 years since my backyard went from a gentle slope into the arroyo to a steep cliff. Those cliffs now are common for the 20 properties that have the arroyo in their backyard. There have been a few halting steps forward, but no action to fix the problem.
The arroyo drains about 425 square miles of watershed stretching from the hills south of Livermore into Contra Costa County. There are a mix of properties—most are privately owned. The Castlewood Country Club has lots of arroyo frontage on its valley course, while the San Francisco Public Utilities Districts owns the land south of the Verona Bridge. A couple of demonstration projects were installed on the San Francisco land to test whether solutions other than concrete or large rock rip-rap could preserve the property and limit the erosion.
I thought Nelson Fialho, Pleasanton’s city manager, had it right in his letter that was read at the meeting when he argued that Zone 7 owns more than 37 miles of flood control and drainage channels that all dump into the Arroyo de la Laguna. Expecting private landowners to cope with the results of greatly increased flows caused by development with hard surfaces upstream is both unfair and unrealistic.
Zone 7 has been collecting a fee on impermeable surfaces (parking lots) for many years for flood control expenses.
Here's hoping and praying that this week’s storms are mild so no further damage is done to the banks south. And, equally importantly, that a permanent solution for the reach is quickly developed so improvements can take place this summer and fall.